I had to clean up after my boss’s toddler, refusing to interview after business hours, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I had to clean up after my boss’s toddler

I’m a new intern in a small office. My supervisor brings her adorable almost-two-year-old into the office. No big deal, she’s very cute and it’s a small office. A coworker and I clean up every day, but one day my boss asked me to clean this big office/meeting room. There were crackers everywhere. They only have a handheld vacuum so I wasn’t even sure it would pick it all up. I had to look everywhere since the crackers/food got everywhere, not to mention a dirty diaper in the waste bin. I quickly realized it was her daughter’s mess.

I mentioned this to my coworker and it turns out the supervisor has been making my coworker clean up after her and her daughter for months. Can she make us clean after her daughter? She words it as, “This office needs to be cleaned.” No asking.

Legally? Sure*. Legally your boss can require you to do pretty much anything, as long as it’s not illegal or assigned in a way that would violate discrimination laws (like assigning tasks by race or gender). But legalities aside, having you clean up after her toddler is bad management, disrespectful, and not what you’re there to do. It would be one thing if it were an emergency — like she had to leave unexpectedly and a client meeting was booked for that room later — and she apologized profusely for asking. But that’s not this; to the contrary, she’s apparently been requiring it of your coworker for months. Your boss just sucks.

Is she fairly senior, or more of a low-level supervisor? If the latter, you and/or your coworker could consider bringing this to the attention of someone with more authority who might intervene.

* If your internship is unpaid, that could change the answer — unpaid internships are subject to different rules than paid employment, and need to be for your benefit rather than the employer’s (with some exceptions, like nonprofits). Cleaning up crumbs and a dirty diaper is not for your benefit.

Read an update to this letter

2. Someone is sullying our toilet seat

Since the fall when our university resumed in-person classes and some faculty have returned to the office, someone in my office wing has been frequently leaving pee on the toilet seat of the bathroom that about 15 people share. Because there have only been a few of us regularly in the office, I have a fairly good idea of who it is, but at the suggestion of my wife (a regular reader of your column), I’m stopping myself from seeking out any more information along that line.

But I (a cis man) sometimes need to sit on the toilet, and I don’t think I should have to wipe up a coworker’s urine to be able to do this. And if I don’t clean it up, then there’s a chance the next person in the bathroom will think that I made the mess.

I wrote a note to the effect of “please don’t make your colleagues clean your urine off the toilet seat” that I posted above the toilet. It was ripped down the next day, and there were fresh drops of pee on the toilet seat. Oh well.

It’s the end of the academic year so I know nothing will change in the short term. But looking ahead to the fall, what if anything can I do? I’m tempted to re-post the sign until it stops, but I know that could well escalate. Can I bring the issue up with my department chair so that they can perhaps issue some official guidance/reminder to everyone in the office wing? Any advice on how to deal with this almost daily imposition would be very much appreciated!

I’d love to tell you there’s a reliable solution, but there isn’t. People who do this generally aren’t deterred by signs or official reminders. Either they’re unaware that they’re doing it and so don’t think the signs/reminders apply to them … or they are aware and are antisocial enough that they don’t care. You can try requesting a more official reminder from above or from your facilities people. You should try, because it’s gross (especially if this is the only toilet for all of you, which it sounds like it might be?). But this is traditionally a very hard thing to stamp out when you’re working with someone who does it.

3. Can I refuse to interview candidates after business hours?

Staffing, as you know, has been a ridiculous obstacle since the pandemic started, particularly in healthcare. I am not in a position to make it difficult for people to interview with me because we are desperate for quality staff, but we start at 6 or 6:30 am. This means I often start to get texts and calls from doctors and staff at 5 am, which means I am working at 5 am.

Problem: Candidates who are working can usually only meet/speak after work, in the evenings, or on weekends. I max out (physically/mentally/emotionally) at about 55-60 hours/week. I just can’t do most evenings/weekends, but I don’t want to miss out on a good candidate because of this. I do try to do some evening/weekend interviews, but it’s awful.

I have tried saying, “My working day typically begins at 6 am and I am therefore unable to meet after 5:30 pm,” but it doesn’t work. I get replies like, “I can meet with you after 7 pm or on Saturday.”

I would love some perspective: How much would I be missing out on by having a hard rule about interview times being only during a normal work day? Am I driving myself crazy for little to no gain? Looking for the voice of reason, please.

It’s not unreasonable to only do interviews during business hours. It’s healthy to have boundaries on when you’re available and how many hours you’re working each week.

And generally job candidates do expect that they’ll need to find a way to interview during business hours. However, the current job market means they might be a lot less incentivized to do it than previously (when they might not have had a choice).

I can’t tell you how much you’ll be missing out on by having a hard and fast rule about your availability; it will depend on your field, the specific jobs you’re hiring for, and what happens when you try it. If you find you have enough good candidates who can interview during business hours, it’s not inherently unreasonable to pass on the the ones who can’t (although I’d still make an exception for someone who seems truly exceptional).

But if you’re finding that holding firm on those boundaries means you can’t hire enough people, you do need to change something. That shouldn’t mean working 13-hour days, though; instead, look for other solutions. For example, can you flex your schedule for a few days to accommodate candidates, starting a few hours later than you normally would? Presumably when you’re sick or on vacation, your colleagues make do without being able to reach you at 5 am; what if you framed it as just as necessary in this situation too?

4. I regret accepting a counteroffer

I recently (within the past month) received an unsolicited job offer with a new company (she was a former manager of mine and had reached out without me applying). The offer was substantially higher but the benefits were much less comprehensive than my current role. I ultimately decided to leave anyway and put in my notice. Within hours of putting in my notice, my grandboss contacted me with a counteroffer. This counter put me at more than the offer I had previously received, but would shift my position to a more senior level role. I ended up taking the counter.

Since taking the counter, I have regretted my decision. While the benefits in this role are what led me to stay (I am currently undergoing fertility treatment, which is covered by my current company, and also would have generous parental leave if successful), the work life balance and stress in the new role as well as my previous role has become unsustainable. I am consistently stressed, I am working at minimum 50+ hour weeks, and I feel like I am still drowning. I had reservations about moving to the next level initially but was reassured that I was ready and would have support. The thing is they currently have me assisting with my previous tasks as well as slowly taking on new tasks. Additionally, due to several changes on my team, the morale is extremely low and most of the employees are burnt out.

The previous position which I backed out of only five days before starting is still open. The colleague who I worked with previously was gracious when I let her know as well. She mentioned that if I decided at a later date to make a move she would still be open to it. Do you think it would be a terrible idea to reach back out and explain that I am open to a move at this time?

Nope. You’ve got nothing to lose, and your contact there specifically told you she was open to it.

This won’t work in every situation. If you accept an offer, then pull out to stay at your current employer instead, and then say “wait, actually, I’d like to accept your offer after all,” a lot of employers will understandably be wary; they’ll worry you might change your mind again in a few weeks (or worse, in a few months, after they’ve invested in training you). But because the person who recruited you knows you and has managed you before — and invited you to do this if you changed your mind — you’ve got as good a shot as anyone could at making it work.

That said, you mentioned that this offer fell in your lap and you hadn’t been looking. Before you call them back to see if you can still accept it, make sure this is the job you really want and it’s not just an easy escape from your current situation. The choice isn’t necessarily between that job and your current job; if this one isn’t right for you (because of the benefits or the work itself or anything else), you could also look at other jobs to see if you can find something that beats them both.

5. Can my company make me pay expenses if I get Covid on a business trip?

I travel regularly for work, and we’re now returning to frequent trips. If I get Covid while on a business trip, who pays for the extended hotel stay, new flight, etc. until I’m cleared to come back? It sure seems like it shouldn’t be me, but I’m guessing my company doesn’t have a policy at all. Any suggestions on how to make the case that it should be a company expense?

Yes — ethically you shouldn’t have to cover those costs since you’d be incurring them only because you were traveling for work. It’s unlikely that your company would balk at paying for the new return flight (they have to fly you home at some point; it would be pretty unusual to refuse to cover your ticket back just because the date has to change for reasons outside your control). The hotel costs should be just as clear-cut, but there’s more of a risk your company won’t see it that way.

Ideally you’d raise this now. You should be able to be pretty straightforward about it: “Since we’re ramping our travel back up, we need a policy on how to handle expenses if someone gets Covid while traveling and can’t return until they’re cleared to fly.” If your company seems at all reluctant, it’s reasonable to say you’re hesitant to travel in a pandemic without assurance that you won’t be personally responsible for extended stay costs. If you have coworkers who will be traveling too, you’ll have more power if you all push for it together.

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I consider it part of advising on life at work to sometimes have to field questions about office bathroom stuff, especially now that so many people are returning to offices; it’s something that comes up for a lot of people and where there aren’t many places to go to get advice on handling bathroom issue X professionally.

    But when commenting on those letters, please keep in mind that people may be eating while reading these comments — or may simply dislike graphic bathroom comments (including me). Please keep that in strongly mind when commenting on the toilet letter and stick to advice for the letter writer. (And I’m going to clean some of them up, removing anything that isn’t advice to the LW and also using “this grosses me out” as a standard for what I’m removing.)

  2. Robert E.O. Speedwagon*

    Yeah LW#1, you have an unfortunate case of “Legally OK but morally bankrupt boss” syndrome. I extend my deepest sympathies and wish you nothing but the best of luck firing up the ol’ resume if this ship doesn’t correct course soon.

    1. Andy*

      maybe she can subtly suggest that the office is big enough to have a cleaning service come in

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Or apply to whomever for a bigger vacuum. That should tip off some people that maybe the interns and lower level employees aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, at the very least a vacuum equal to the task… chances are that the reason Boss is getting away with this is because OP is an intern.

    2. CatBookMom*

      “Internship”? Babysitting job? How do we decide between? The LW needs to run away fast, IMO. So sorry.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        At least half a lifetime ago, I was paid BETTER as a babysitter than I was as an intern. Internships were required for my (at that time) field, and were notoriously craptastically paid. And the power dynamic is GROSS, you have to have your supervisor sign off/certify on your internship experience modules…so good luck requesting better pay, or h3ll, even BEING paid. Most of the interns at my employer had second jobs. Those who didn’t to a person had a spouse or significant other who was NOT in school themselves.

        My second job was the late shift in a daycare center. Not exactly a place known for good pay, as a benchmark here, but it still paid better than my internship.

        The “I suffered therefore so shall you” is rife in that particular field. Major big name professionals were loudly against better pay for interns at that time, because the internships were obviously for our benefit as they were required for licensure (in the United States). Not that firms didn’t build the low-pay into their structure and workloads.

        Didn’t take me long to go into something adjacent that had a little less ridiculousness and paid better.

    3. Miette*

      OP, if your internship was secured through your university, and you are allowed/requested to offer an evaluation of the company you’re working for (if you are getting college credit for it, of course), I recommend you include this incident in it. Perhaps your university will bring it up with your employer.

      1. Rock Prof*

        Yes, if this is through your university, you should definitely get in touch with the supervising faculty or internship coordinator. My university has pretty low standards for what is considered an “educational internship,” but even this wouldn’t fly at all.

    4. Bongofury*

      I wonder if LW#1 is in a place where he can approve the purchase of some wet ones to be placed in the stall. It won’t stop the pee-er but it would make clean up much easier.

    5. Van Wilder*

      But isn’t it a misappropriation of company resources to have an employee spend time on personal business? I guess it’s de minimis but doesn’t seem like a good use of employee time.

      1. Observer*

        It depends on the Boss’ position. The most obvious thing being if the boss is also the owner.

  3. Andy*

    I love the phrasing that peeing on the toilet seat is “traditionally a very hard thing to stamp out”, specifically the word “traditionally”. Like you’re gonna confront her about it and she’ll coldly reply “As is customary in our culture, I decline your request that I stop pissing on the seat.”


    1. bamcheeks*

      I would go with some public shaming in this one. Talk loudly about how gross it is! Get everyone paranoid and double-triple checking! If they’re oblivious, paranoia might work, and if they’re antisocial, maybe the thought that everyone is talking about this will introduce the fear of Social Consequences.

      1. Anya Last Nerve*

        I think someone running around talking about pee on the toilet seat is going to seem like the weirdo. Wouldn’t a simpler solution be to lobby for seat covers for the bathroom?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. The pee talker would be the weirdo and the seat pee-er probably wouldn’t even think anything had to do with them. Hell, they might even chime in on how gross it is, and still keep doing it, if they haven’t realized it is them since some people flush and don’t look back.

          1. kittymommy*

            See, I wouldn’t think of the pee talker as the weirdo I would definitely think that they are commiserating a (likely) mutual problem and I’d sympathize. He’s probably not the only one who’s having to deal with it. Whether or not the offender realizes the talk is about them is another thing. People’s lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling.

            1. Malarkey01*

              I don’t want to talk or commiserate with my coworkers about anything in the bathroom. If I heard someone talking about pee my reaction right or wrong would be eww Fergus can we not talk about pee right now.

              I get that it’s gross, but honestly as a woman the public restrooms I use have liquid on the seat 50% of the time (sometimes pee, sometimes from the force of the auto flush). It’s just a thing I think we deal with like not stepping in puddles in parking lots or stepping on gum someone spit on the street- gross but not campaign worthy.

            2. LittleMarshmallow*

              Same… that’s how we deal with it in my office… comment about it in the office to sneakily shame the sprinkler. In my office… we absolutely know who it is. We only have 4 women in the office and it only happens when a specific one is there…

              I also recommend this approach… it’s a little unclear to me if this is a unisex one seater toilet situation… like as a female… I have no problem shaming my female or male counterparts for sloppy toilet etiquette, but I guess I could see a male being more hesitant especially in a shared bathroom situation.

              I’ve also had to have the talk with grown men about not peeing out on the floor in the plant all willy nilly… so maybe my sensitivities on the subject are a little more crude at this point.

              If it is a shared bathroom with a terrible butt to toilet ratio… I would also recommend going to either managers or facilities to get a sanctioned sign and reminder note though too.

    2. Cj*

      The OP is a cis man, I assume that the person doing this is a man also. I’m not sure how they’re getting it on the seat if they’re putting the seat up. Unless they put the seat down again before they shake it.

      1. anonymous73*

        Why would you assume that? 90% of the time when I use a public restroom as a woman there is pee on the seat. It’s from squatting – I avoid sitting on the seat unless absolutely necessary. And yes I will clean up MY mess.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, this is a constant problem in women’s rooms. I don’t think we can guess the cuplprit’s sex.

        2. Yorick*

          LW says in the letter that he is a cis man. So he’s probably using a men’s room.

          1. Jora Malli*

            Most of the jobs I’ve had with a similar number of employees to OP don’t have gender separated bathrooms for staff. It’s usually a single occupancy room that all the staff use.

          2. Person from the Resume*

            My impression was a single all genders bathroom. If there was multi-stalls he could at least change to a different toilet which hopefully wouldn’t have pee on it.

          3. Essess*

            My assumption is unisex single bathrooms otherwise he could have just uses a different unsoiled toilet if wasn’t. By having just one shared then it could be either sex.

        3. Yorick*

          Wait. 90% of the time, you see pee on the seat in a women’s room???? IME it’s not rare, exactly, but I don’t see pee on the seat way more often than I do see it.

          1. Former Retail Lifer*

            Right? 90% of the time I DON’T see it. What’s going on in some of these ladies rooms?

      2. Miette*

        OP never said that the bathroom was men only. Never underestimate the ability for women to sully toilet seats with the best of ’em.

        1. Cj*

          That’s true. I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t have gender bathrooms, so I assumed he was using a men’s room.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          So true! See my post below. I didn’t specify that it was a women’s bathroom, but it was.

      3. LW2 OP*

        I am pretty sure the person doing this is standing up. The toilet seat is usually left down (a subject of its own), but it’s one of those models with the gap in the front that seems to tempt certain people to leave the seat down and pee without hitting the seat. IMO this type of seat is awful and should be replaced. Hey maybe that’s a solution…

        1. Snuck*

          I’m not sure if you are aware of all the “if you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie wipe the seatie” poems that an endless parade of bored women have put in ladies toilets…. But you could print a few of those out and put them up.

          If the sprinkler is a person who could feasibly have prostate or health issues then you could raise it politely but that’s tricky. If this is male only bathroom you could print out a mens health poster on urinary control issues and put it up.

          Both of these avenues are pretty passive aggressive, but so too is peeing on the seat and leaving it there. Women have for years waged poster wars and loud water cooler talk about who is doing it (more time gets put to this than the conversations around who isn’t washing their hands!), and basically not solved it.

          My personal solution would be, if this is a small toilet that not many people use and is locked/private access, to put a spray bottle of disinfectant in there and a roll of paper towel with a small bucket bin. Make it incredibly easy for them to clean up, and if they don’t, I’m sorry, but at least you can.

          Another idea is to just routinely leave the seat up every time you can, and see if that helps. If you realise a co worker is a sit-to-pee / leaving it down a lot you could quietly say “hey mate, let’s leave the seat up to beat the pee sprinkler at his own game!” And hopefully that fixes it?

          I agree with Allison. Either people don’t know what to do about it when it happens/don’t realise it’s a problem, or don’t care. Little you can do aside from a small public education campaign and then deal with it yourself sadly.

      4. Rebecca Stewart*

        Men with prostate hypertrophy often have difficulties with the entirety of the process: They start, and nothing comes out. They think they’re done, and they drip.

        However, they don’t have to leave the drip there.

      5. LittleMarshmallow*

        3 of our 5 restrooms in my office are unisex one-seaters so it could totally be either one. In my experience, we have one seat sprinkler that’s female and the dudes pee on the floor and that stupid spot under the seat where the seat is open and the under part is exposed (you know what I mean)… I hate that the most cuz it’s icky and my thighs still touch that spot on the seat!

        Ours is a tiny office… we know who the culprits are…

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      In a previous office space, there was one bathroom with multiple stalls that my company shared with a couple of other companies (all very small companies). There must have been a new employee in one of the companies, maybe ours, we never knew.
      But the HR person, me and a couple of other managers were pretty grossed out every time we went to the rest room. So we put a sign up in each stall that said “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat”
      And the problem went away. We were all SO relieved.

    4. Tired Social Worker*

      I want to be passive aggressive and leave a note directly to who I THINK is in the bathroom, even thought I would never in real life. lol

      1. Snuck*

        “Yo Bob, stop with the firehose all over the seat. Sincerely your grossed out workmates” is satisfying, but sadly probably going to increase hostilities :P We can all dream though!

  4. Artemesia*

    Intern? Oh hell no. Unless this is a very well paid internship absolutely this violates law and norms for internships. Talk to your campus coordinator about this and ask for a new placement if it continues. Obviously you may calculate that the benefits outweigh the abuse — but know that pushing back hard is appropriate.

    Pee? There is no way to change the behavior of selfish pigs. If possible, have the company provide a pack of disinfecting wipes to wipe down the seat before use if necessary — sucks, but there you are.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to be clear so the OP isn’t confused — if it’s a paid internship with at least minimum wage, it does not violate the law. Norms and ethics, yes!

    2. L-squared*

      Abuse? Come on. Its cleaning up some damn crackers. I’m not saying its great. But this wouldn’t be the first employee to have to clean up a mess they didn’t make. It hardly rises to the level of abuse though. I have the title “senior” in my role, and I’ve had to clean up after meetings because we have a small office and our cleaning crew only comes in a couple of days a week. Depending on the internship, it may be worth it to have to do that a couple of times. But really, is cleaning up a conference room that much worse than making copies or going on coffee runs?

      1. KayDeeAye*

        It depends – the dirty diaper puts this particular conference room in its own, special category. :-) I still wouldn’t call it abuse, but the dirty diaper and the fact that the OP’s supervisor does this frequently does make it a more egregious abuse of *power*.

        1. PeanutButter*

          The dirty diaper makes me wonder if she changed the kid *on* the conference table. And if so…did she sanitize afterwards? I’d guess no… *gag*

        2. L-squared*

          I guess I’m a bit confused. I didn’t get the impression the person had to handle a dirty diaper, just that there was a dirty diaper in the trash. Again, not a great thing, but if its already in the trash I don’t know that I’m seeing the issue.

          But yes, egregious use of power, sure. Abuse? No

          1. KayDeeAye*

            I don’t think the OP should have to cope with the dirty diaper of someone else’s kid. It does not belong in a company trash can, except the ones in the restrooms.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              If taking out office trash is a normal cleaning task for an intern I guess I don’t see why it matters if that’s a diaper in there occasionally… I’m a non parent and this wouldn’t bug me if that was part of normal tasks (if they only have to do it when dirty diapers are in there maybe…). I’ve had grosser things in trashes in our plant than a diaper. When I originally read this I thought it was going to be a pee or puke clean up story… then it was crackers and a diaper in a trash can and I was more like “eh… not probably best use of intern time but not torture”. Maybe interns could request better cleaning tools or a proper vacuum?

  5. Pyjamas*

    The extremely obnoxious person leaving pee on toilet seat is peeing standing up bc they don’t want to sit on the seat and assume no one else does either. Can your dept furnish disposable toilet seat covers? That might make things less gross for you, even if you have to wipe the seat dry first. Agree they won’t change (though I did think of the special paint that splashes pee back at men urinating in the street. Would that work on a seat? Maybe a wooden one? :)

    1. Mockingjay*

      Came to suggest the same thing. Whatever company supplies the restrooms can provide mounted dispensers and the covers. Point out that it’s a sanitation issue.

      The covers are quite useful. Public toilets usually have forceful flushes by design, but the force sprays water onto the seats in addition to fluids left behind by patrons. (As to why public toilets don’t have lids to contain the spray – lids can be difficult to clean and frequently break as patrons use them to stand, hold packages, etc. [Gross but it does happen. Saw all kinds of things the year I worked as a janitor.])

      1. LW2 OP*

        Do those disposable seat covers actually work? I imagine they just squish some of the liquid to the side or absorb it and then I’m touching the liquid anyway. So I’d probably just end up wiping up the stray drops, which is what I’d like to avoid having to do!

        1. quill*

          They mostly encourage people to remain seated, in my experience with places that provide them. Instead of trying to hover your butt 1 centimeter above the seat and inevitably providing more room for droplets.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a perfect cleaning solution to a shared commode. Toilets are where humans do messy business. Even the most fastidious of us occasionally leave a trace.

          The only exception I’ve seen are self-cleaning toilets, in which the ring is rotated through a cleaning device. But those are very expensive, break frequently, and tend to leave streaks of cleaning solution so you’ve still got liquid on the seat.

      2. Anon Y Mouse*

        See I came here to say, are we SURE that it’s not just the overzealous flushing leaving droplets? Those things used to always leave drops and I’d wipe them up because I was afraid someone would think that *I* was leaving pee on the seat!

    2. Oakwood*

      Reportedly, there is a huge percentage of women who hover rather than sit on a public toilet.

      Still, it’s almost certain that the offender is a male. I assume there are no urinals and he doesn’t want to touch the seat to raise it.

      A sign reading: “please raise the seat (with your FOOT if needed) before urinating” might help. It’s an easy enough maneuver once you’ve tried it, and will give the offender an option other than urinating on the seat.

      1. Snuck*

        There’s also a rather ingenious product called a SheWee. It enables women to stand to pee with ease, and a range of knock off versions too. Just saying….

    3. Yorick*

      The bathroom in question is a men’s room. Sure, it could be unisex, but LW made sure to tell us he’s a cis man and didn’t mention that it’s a unisex bathroom. There are way more gendered bathrooms than unisex. So we should assume it’s a guy peeing on the seat.

      1. Jora Malli*

        I must have read that line differently than you did. I assumed OP’s problem coworker was a woman, so he as a cis man doesn’t feel okay bringing it up in the same way that he could with another guy.

        1. Alana Bloom*

          It’s so interesting to see different people’s interpretations! I read it in a third way – bathroom is shared between people of multiple genders, and OP is worried that people using it after him will assume that he is not putting the seat up or is aiming badly when he uses the toilet.

          That said, I don’t think that the gender(s) of the people using the bathroom changes the advice much.

      2. LW2 OP*

        My bad, it is a gender neutral bathroom used by all. The other thing I left out is that the seat is one of those models with the gap in the front that tempts some people, mostly men, to try to pee with the seat down.

    4. calonkat*

      My thought was a laminated sign, mounted with screws to the wall above the toilet

      Someone in this office leaves pee on the seat.
      They are aware and can’t/won’t stop the behavior
      Be sure to check the seat prior to sitting!”

      Make it a warning to others, not a request of the Person Incapable of non-Grossness

      1. Wondercootie*

        We had a perpetual seat wetter (among other not-suitable-for-lunch bodily functions) for a while. I’m the office manager, so I was the one that got the reports every.freaking.time. What finally worked was a biohazard sign and caution tape. It got ripped down a few times, but I just kept putting a new one up every time I got a report. It took about a week, but it finally mostly stopped.

        1. Snuck*

          That could work.

          I’ve also had a workplace (I wasn’t managing/this feels a bit overkill) close off the entire bathrooms and place an “OUT OF ORDER FOR CLEANING” sign on the door… every time it was reported, and sent out a message each time to all staff saying “The ladies toilets on the west end of the building are closed until the cleaners come tomorrow morning as someone has left them unclean for others. Please use the east toilets in the meantime.” That sort of inconvenience was quick to shut down a seat pee-er too.

          1. Snuck*

            (This was a 150 person floor plate, with only a dozen women on the whole floor at best.)

    5. mandatory anon*

      Take a picture each time and send it to the entire company with one of those ‘zero days since…’ signs.

  6. Zan+Shin*

    Re #1: there is zero excuse for any human being to discard a used diaper in any garbage receptacle outside of a bathroom. Period. It’s gross and unsanitary and I wouldn’t clean up after it and I would 100% complain over the person’s head.

    1. Artemesia*

      And this not the cracker crumbs is the point of leverage if you decide to take it up a step in management. Doing a little more work — not shocking; having to deal with body waste — yeah gross and a big deal. Frame the complaint like that.

      We had a very big wig (actually wife of CEO) who worked in our office who expected someone to clean up after her dog which she brought to the office and put out pee pads for — there were always wet and dirty dog pads in her office and she didn’t take care of them. Our janitors and admins all refused to do it — eventually the head admin did — I always thought they should have taken it to Mr. Big Wig’s office and complained to him but everyone was terrified to stand up.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My boss brought his puppy in and she peed and poohed right next to my desk, he never cleared it up at all. Disgusting guy. It wasn’t her fault, she was a puppy and he should have taken her out more often. But he’d get in at like 10am and expect her to hold it until after he’d had his lunch. I felt like screaming that it wasn’t like putting your oxygen mask on in a plane, you could easily take the puppy out for quick round the block walk before eating.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        And, since presumably the toddler didn’t change herself, the boss changed the diaper and threw it out in the conference room garbage and then sent an intern to deal with it later rather than walking it to the restroom and disposing of it properly. Your boss is an a**hole, LW.

        1. Starbuck*

          It also makes me assume that the child was changed IN the conference room, possibly on the table. That people presumably sometimes eat on. Gross.

    2. Casper Lives*

      It’s just gross. I know some bosses lord over people but treating your employer’s employees like your personal maid service is extra.

    3. KateM*

      Why? Aren’t the trash cans in your office lined with bags so that whoever collects them just takes the bags out, and also usually while wearing gloves, even though they aren’t touching the trash at all? And doesn’t using her own trash can mean that if there’s anything smelly, she is smelling up her own office not common bathroom?
      (Asking as someone whose only trash can of whole apartment was in kitchen, complete with used diapers and tampons.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Smell is a lot of it, and this seems to have been a shared conference room. So “clean” would include “remove source of poo smell.”

        Diaper bags come with a bag similar to a gallon ziplock where you can put your smelly diaper to take home and dispose of in the diaper pail with the sealing lid to contain smell.

        1. Susie Q*

          “Diaper bags come with a bag similar to a gallon ziplock where you can put your smelly diaper to take home and dispose of in the diaper pail with the sealing lid to contain smell.”

          Please share which diaper bag this is because the vast majority of them, you have to buy bags to dispose of diapers (like doggy poop bags).

          1. Snuck*

            You can buy ‘wet bags’ to take cloth nappies home in.

            But generally most disposable nappies are just wrapped in a disposable nappy bag and tied shut. I would HOPE that this is what was in the conference bin – a toddler nappy, inside a tied shut perfumed “nappy disposal bag” … and that there was a bin liner in the same bin too. In which case just treat it like ordinary rubbish.

            If the boss wants to stink out the conference room with toddler poop then that’s their prerogative… asking the intern to clean and toss the rubbish is a bit of a stretch but it sounds like there isn’t a regular cleaning staff, so it’s the duty usually of one of the other staff? If there was a regular cleaning staff then this should be left for them (unless the boss isn’t supposed to have her toddler there and is hiding it from someone and janitorial staff have complained in the past?).

            Most people change toddlers on the floor – they wriggle and move a lot and will fall from tables fast, and toddlers are heavy to lift. Far easier to get down to the floor with them. Take heart in that.

        2. shedubba*

          I’ve bought many diaper bags, and none have come with a wet bag for dirty diapers, though one did come with a washable changing table liner. I’ve had to buy my own disposable bags.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, agreed. The smell isn’t great, but there’s no safety hazard to a dirty diaper in a lined trash can.

      3. SpiteCartridges*

        As a parent who has been in the diaper stage since 2016 (soon to be potty training the second kid and out of it, crossing fingers and toes): I keep dog poop bags in our diaper bag to bag a dirty diaper before throwing in a not-at-home trash can because they can really start to stink if not contained/not taken out after a few hours. If I’m at someone’s house I try to find the outside bin and put it in there directly so they don’t have to deal with it at all. Definitely have lower standards for my own trash cans, though!

    4. irene adler*

      It sure does make me speculate as to where the diaper change occurred though. Maybe on the conference room table? Blech!

      1. As per Elaine*

        Honestly, there are offices where that might be the only option besides the floor. I would hope they use a pad and wipe everything down thoroughly after, though.

        1. Ayla*

          I do standing changes with my daughter and have since she was old enough to stand reasonably still (maybe 18mo?). I always assumed that was the norm, to be honest. It’s faster and feels more sanitary than the tables in public restrooms.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      I’m not saying it’s a good idea to dispose of them in a conference room wastebasket, but please note that there’s a big difference between a poopy diaper and one that’s just wet in terms of smell. There should be no odor issue with a wet diaper. This boss, however, seems like the type to toss a poopy diaper in there without even wrapping it up.

  7. cappucino girl*

    Poster #3 – you already don’t work business hours! Have you considered offering 6:30/7/7:30/8am as times? Some people may be able to meet before work, or meet at 8am or so and start their work day at 10am. (If I requested to start my day one time at 10am, I know I could. Even in previous hourly positions that I’ve held, as long as I let my boss know ahead of time, it was typically NBD.)

    1. TechWorker*

      Came here to say this too – maybe candidates are assuming early mornings are out of the question, so worth being explicit that’s an option.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        That was my thought too! Then I got totally distracted by the bathroom thread. But a lot of people just don’t want to take time off work to interview, and going before work would be a big help. Maybe even let them know it’s ok to show up in work attire and not formal interview attire (especially for doctors or nurses who might work in scrubs) so they don’t need to stress about changing before work. I did a super early interview one time, and my one big concern was showing up to work looking super nice and having people suspect.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      I was thinking this too. Have your interviews at six or 630 when you’re fresh.
      When I worked in an administrative office of a hospital I was surprised the physicians had 7AM meetings. Later I learned this was because they had to meet outside of practice hours so they could treat patients during the regular workday.
      Whoever you hire will presumably be starting at six or 630 like you do, so they might as well know those are the hours going into the interview.

    3. Jora Malli*

      This is a good point. In a lot of the jobs I’ve had, it’s been a lot easier to arrange coming in an hour or so later than normal than just being gone for an hour or two in the middle of the day.

    4. MapleHill*

      I think a combination of this and Alison’s advice would be best. I don’t think the solution is that you work 14 hour days. I’m with you in maxing out at a certain number of hours a week before it starts breaking you down.

      Definitely, some people would greatly appreciate being offered an early morning interview. If you regularly have meetings or employees trying to reach you at that time, block off a day or two each week for interviews. It sounds like recruiting is a big part of your job, so it’s very reasonable that you have flexibility for candidates and can be framed that way if anyone has problem with the blocked time.

      However, if you have the option to be available after 5 pm for one or two days a week, that would also be beneficial to accommodate candidates who are currently employed. Evening interviews will be best for some people because they won’t be worried about leaving and getting to work on time during rush hour (schedules may be different in healthcare). But I would get with your manager to see if on those days your start time can be an equivalent number of hours later, not working an insanely long day.

      If that kind of schedule change or lack of availability some mornings is something that has to be approved, the fact that you’re losing out on candidates in this highly competitive market would be reasoning enough. Whether you sleep or just don’t have to think about work during that time is up to you, but it sounds like you already work long hours and interviewing can be physically and mentally draining as it is, so you need that balance to avoid burnout. This is for your mental health and your ability to be rested and focused on the job.

  8. Quickbeam*

    This is for #3….I was a night shift RN for most of my career. Looking for a new job just about always meant taking a last minute day off from my job to accommodate interviewing. Or showing up dog tired in my scrubs. Health care folks generally need some flexibility since their worlds are 24/7. I would say that if you are up that early and working a lot of shift workers would love early AM slots.

    But it’s an awfully big moving target for one person to take on…..If you could flex and not work the additional hours, that would likely be best. And from the constant calls and emails I am getting ( newly retired) the market is pretty desperate right now on the employer side. So ease of interviewing would serve you well.

    1. Luna*

      Not in healthcare, but I did work nightshift in hospitality, and most of the world is not really kind to working for us. Government or doctor’s offices only open in the pre-noon times, which is the middle of the night for you and you are probably falling asleep while blinking, and you either have to go while half-asleep or plan a good 24 hours ahead.

  9. Dennis Feinstein*

    Assuming the toilet seat wetter is also the sign ripper, this person has a lot of gall! Not only do they think they’re entitled to wee on the seat, but how DARE anyone politely request that they cease & desist!
    Since it seems this filthy grub isn’t going to stop, the best solution does seem to be wipes/disinfectant/seat covers for those who DON’T enjoy sitting in others’wee.

    1. Airy*

      People who do things like this often believe that EVERYONE does it and the people who ask you not to are just hypocrites trying to act superior. I mean, they’re wrong but that’s why they’re so indignant about it.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In the UK, dog poo left in the street is analysed for DNA and the dog owner then has to pay a hefty fine.
        Are there enough drips to do that here I wonder? I’d love to see the look on the Sprinkler’s face as his boss tells him that he’s being written up and this is his last chance.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Slight correction: that scheme isn’t widespread, and relies on people voluntarily registering their dogs with the database first. So you’re unlikely to get a match as the kind of people who let their dogs crap on the path are not likely to have registered their dogs on the DNA database.

          Also, a lot of councils are dismissing it as costly and ineffective.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I’m going to go find the random statistic in a true crime podcast where they addressed HOW MANY freaking DNA databases LE had to access in one cold case in order to identify the suspect, who’s DNA was at the crime scene. (It was an appallingly high number, suffice it to say.)

        2. Anne Elliot*

          I lived in a very upscale apartment complex here in the USA that did this. You had to give them a little poo sample so that they had your dog’s DNA. If you didn’t clean up after your dog, they’d fine you. As a little law abider and responsible pet owner, I was all for it.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I kind of love this. A little over the top, probably expensive, I doubt they’re really even testing tbh. Great deterrent though.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the belief that everyone does this is a key element. “I’M following social norms; you other people are the problem.”

        1. pancakes*

          I can understand how people think that way when it comes to political or cultural stuff, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all with regard to slovenliness. Surely they don’t actually want other people to be as slovenly as they are? Surely they just want to avoid scrutiny of their own behavior. How does someone fall for that sort of cognitive dissonance, though?

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I don’t think it’s so much that they WANT other people to be as slovenly. I think it’s more that they believe other people ARE as slovenly and are lying. “You criticise me for doing it, but you do it too. Don’t lie to me, of course you do. Everybody does it,” type of thing. I’ve heard admittedly less aggressive versions of that, usually, “anybody who says they don’t do x is a liar” or “do you do x or are you lying?”

            1. pancakes*

              That makes some sense, but thinking everyone else is lying is a wild way to go through life. It’s a weird narrative to sell oneself on and would fall apart at the flimsiest scrutiny.

              1. doreen*

                It might be a wild way to go through life – but lots of people do it anyway. They don’t exactly think everybody else is lying, because most people don’t actually talk about how they don’t leave pee on the toilet sat or don’t steal hotel towels or whatever – but they really do believe that everyone does what they do and on the rare occasion that someone says “I don’t X”, they must be lying.

              2. On Fire*

                I’ve seen it. Possibly even here, in threads about swearing. “Everybody swears. I literally don’t know anyone who doesn’t swear. Ergo, if you say you don’t swear, you’re lying.”

                (Spoiler: not lying)

                1. pancakes*

                  I’ve seen it in all sorts of places, but that’s a bit different – those are people who apparently think everyone’s life resembles their own. That’s closer to ordinary old insularity than delusion.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I see this a lot in the “don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom” group. Especially early pandemic when hand washing was such a big push. Same sort of logic with “no one washes their hands EVERY time” argument.

    2. anonymous73*

      Even if I wasn’t the culprit, I would take the sign down. A sign is not going to stop behavior like that, and passive aggressive signs are annoying AF. If you can’t rely on adults to have basic common decency when using shared spaces, a sign is not going to change that.

      1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

        It’s not passive aggressive if they don’t actually know who it is.

        1. LW2 OP*

          I also don’t think it’s “passive aggressive” to write a note with clear directions aimed at fixing a problem that impacts me and all my other colleagues. Since I don’t really know who is leaving the pee, a sign in the location where the offensive behavior happens seemed like the only way to communicate with this person in any way. And if there is going to be an end to the drops of pee on the seat, then this person has to at least know that other people are impacted by what they are doing.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I think it’s only passive aggressive if it’s phrased like “somebody here apparently doesn’t know how to us a toilet properly.” I wouldn’t see “please wipe the seat if it’s not clean” as passive-aggressive. That seems just like a simple instruction.

  10. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: It’s been my distinct displeasure as a woman in IT to have people’s kids handed off to me in the office in past years – in some cases with ‘oh change their nappy too’. I don’t have kids. I don’t like kids. I certainly don’t have the skills to deal with them. When I was new to the workplace and very much in the ‘don’t complain, don’t speak up’ mindset I’d pretty much just disappear when the time for kid sitting/cleaning up after would come around. Always have something else to do…

    Now I’m a lot older (gerrof my lawn) I have the political clout to push back against any of this on me or my staff. Bodily waste belongs in the bathroom, not the office big and if you bring your kid in then you’re responsible for them and cleaning up. Not leaving it for the cleaning staff either.

    If escaping or pushing back isn’t an option (and I hope it is) then maybe some small comfort in knowing that generally you will not be doing this kind of thing in most companies. Your boss is just a git.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      As a parent I can’t fathom asking a coworker to do anything with my kid beyond asking the parent of kids mine are playing with to keep an eye on things while I grab another hot dog at a company picnic.

      (As a parent, other parents consistently do things that blow my mind.)

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Oddly, the part that really bugged me was the boss letting her kid get crackers all over a conference room. Who just lets a two year old run wild with crackers? You sit their butt down in a chair and a placemat and a bib and they can eat the cracker there and only get up when done. Even two year olds are fully capable of cleaning up after themselves and following basic rules. Giant mess is not the natural result of letting a kid be somewhere.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Absolutely. Babies past six months can get basic ideas of things that aren’t allowed, like hitting or dropping food on purpose.

          1. snoopythedog*

            WHat!? Babies at 6 months cannot understand “no hitting” or not dropping food. Their brains are not developed enough.

            1. Rebecca Stewart*

              I don’t know. I and probably several other readers trained our kids not to snatch Mommy’s glasses off her face as early as possible. So some things are possible.

        2. Snuck*

          Trust me… crackers are the clean option. Better than a banana or sippy cup of milk.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Right? I already can’t imagine taking my kid to work for longer than “I forgot something at the office and I need to swing by on my day off.” Then just… turning child care over to random coworkers because they happen to be women? Hard no on so many levels.

    2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      What kind of workplaces were (or are still?) you IT’ing in that people not infrequently have their kids around? That whole concept is fully baffling to me. Especially given that it’s IT and how male-dominated that field is. When I imagine a person whose childcare fell through and they end up bringing their child to the office in desperation, I do not picture a man. That burden very nearly always falls on women, even more starkly prior to the pandemic.

      1. Elenna*

        True, but on the other hand I can much more easily see a guy why has his kid with him for some reason going “oh, I’ll just go find The Girl, she’ll take care of the kid”…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s exactly what happened. With a lot of ‘but you’re a woman, you’re supposed to be great with children!’ added in.

          I’m not. Not unless your kid likes a) being ignored or b) learning a lot of new words…

          1. All The Words*

            Another child-free woman here. Any time someone threatens to . . . entrust me with child care I promise to teach the little dear how to drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Shoot, I HAVE children and if this happened at work because I’m The Girl in my Department, I can guarantee same, both the whiskey and smoking AND the new words. Multiple languages worth, as those are the first words I learn in any given language…so I know more foul-ness than I am fluent in languages ;)

      2. LilPinkSock*

        You know, my dad had to bring me into work with him a few times when I was really little. He just set the baby gate up, provisioned tiny me with snacks and toys, and…you know…parented. Never pawned me off on anyone else, regardless of gender. I am a woman, and I’ve worked in IT and other male-dominated fields for years. No one has ever thrust their child at me other than to say hi in passing!

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        The blokes brought their kids into work too! Luckily the place I work at now has a very strict ‘no babies or children at all’ rule.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          I’m still deeply curious about what kind of workplaces they felt audacious enough to bring kids in (and numerous times!). I’m not in IT (finance, per my moniker), but I’ve worked at HQs with a large IT and Systems departments and other than bringing a new baby around to say “hello” after a birth it’s inconceivable that anyone would bring a child into the office.

    3. Laney Boggs*

      ha. I don’t change my nibling’s diapers. They get handed right back to mom/dad/auntie that DOES do that. Once they’re older, I have no qualms helping them in the bathroom, but I don’t do diapers. I have 0 political clout (and am gearing up for an industry change), but I think I’d laugh at anyone trying to make me change their baby.

    4. nobadcats*

      When I was working in retail, the boss had a baby and parked her small human next to my register to “keep an eye on her.” I also had customers, at the end of their transaction say, “Oh, I have to use the restroom, can you watch my toddler and baby to make sure they’re okay?” Uh, no. I had one father who was so invested in looking at his phone (it was a trial to get him to press the buttons and approve his purchase), he didn’t even notice his toddler had toddled out the door and was heading for the street. I leapt over his bags, ran out the doors, and grabbed the small fry and then got yelled at for “manhandling” his kid. HE WAS ALMOST IN THE STREET! JFC.

  11. Quoi*

    Re no. 5: how does travel insurance for business work in the US? Would you be covered under that policy for any emergent issues, or are there a whole slew of covid-exceptions and conditions?

    1. Asenath*

      My employer had their own travel insurance policy, but I left just pre-COVID, so I don’t know how they handled that. But in general, that meant all employees traveling for work were covered for emergencies.

    2. hamsterpants*

      This does feel like something travel insurance should cover, though you might have to read the fine print and possible request your company add coverage. Covering costs to change a flight because you’re sick is very standard. The extended hotel stay may or may not be covered depending on specifics, especially depending on whether the stay is at your travel destination or at your home city.

    3. anonymous73*

      I can’t say for sure, but travel insurance is generally for money you’ve already spent, not money you may possibly spend if something bad happens.

      I will say that I’ve looked into travel insurance recently and they do now include COVID policies, but again, it’s for money you’ve already spent yourself. We booked a trip in Jan 2020 for that following summer and bought travel insurance. But apparently it didn’t cover a pandemic, even thought we weren’t IN the pandemic when we purchased it. Thankfully the company gave us a credit and we were able to use it last summer.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I recall reviewing a few travel insurance policies that precluded covid-related issues.

      2. Raboot*

        There are definitely travel insurance policies now that cover extra days in a hotel due to COVID.

        1. anonymous73*

          Yes, but if the company is footing the bill, how exactly would you purchase travel insurance for yourself in the case of needing to stay longer?

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            You would call a travel insurance provider and ask about plans. It doesn’t matter who’s paying for the travel in the first place. If you think you’re at risk of having to pay out-of-pocket for expenses related to an unexpected change of travel plans due to COVID or another emergency, then you get insurance for that risk.

          2. Sequoia*

            I think the idea is that the company likely has a travel insurance policy that covers all employee travel. I don’t think anyone was suggesting that the employee should personally buy travel insurance to cover a trip the company is paying for.

      3. Quoi*

        See, I ask about travel insurance because I was stranded in Chicago for 2.5 weeks as a result of the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption, coming back from a work trip to New Orleans.

        While I had a company credit card so wasn’t immediately out of pocket myself, having the insurance helpline was very helpful, and we absolutely claimed all my extra expenses, including the additional fees I had to pay my cat sitter and the jacket I needed because the weather in Chicago in March is very different to that in New Orleans. Travel insurance should (as I understand it) cover expenses as a result of an emergency while travelling, not just what you spent before you travelled.

        If you’ve staff travelling for work, your business travel insurance should logically cover emergencies, including covid ones – but insurance is complicated

    4. Anne Elliot*

      I’m coming at this from the vantage point of a manager, but: If you came down with COVID _when_ traveling for work, how would you show that you got COVID _from_ traveling for work? I think the incubation period is like five days, right? If you got COVID at your uncle’s barbeque the weekend before you went to Dayton, should your work still pay for your hotel until you’re better? You’d be sick either way, and although it’s not your fault you got sick, it’s not your company’s fault either.

      But OTOH, you would still have been sick, but you wouldn’t be sick _in Dayton_, you’d be at home. So I think on balance I agree with Alison, but I can see businesses declining to foot that type of bill.

      1. calonkat*

        From the CDC “Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus”
        So they could have been exposed at work, during the conference, or at a barbeque the previous weekend. But I think the fact that the company put them in another place means the company is responsible for them (within reason*) until they get back.
        *Within reason to include the person getting arrested or doing something else not within the reasonable definition of work event.)

      2. JustaTech*

        So, my spouse was exposed at a work event while traveling (several work events, as it turned out) and only found out about the exposure on the flight home. So he and his coworkers all chose to go to hotels after their flights landed rather than going home, so that they could start isolating immediately. He then isolated at home for 5 days to be sure. He didn’t end up getting sick, but several people did.

        So I think in that case the company should have paid for that one night of hotel, since the exposure was known to be at a work event that they would not have otherwise attended. (I don’t know if they did or not.)

      3. Eyes Kiwami*

        I don’t think it should matter where you got COVID from, and anyways it wouldn’t always be that obvious where you got it from. If the company is willing to pay for you to travel and expose yourself during a pandemic, they should be willing to pony up for the cost of covering your possible illness–same as they do for your regular insurance. It’s no one’s “fault” you get sick but paying for insurance for your human workforce is a cost of doing business.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      There are plenty of travel insurance plans available for Americans, and the LW’s company should be buying COVID coverage (or an extra COVID rider to their usual coverage) for any trips in the foreseeable future.

  12. Rob*

    LW#1: I’m surprised that no one has mentioned how tricky it can be for moms to figure out childcare + career, often with a husband who doesn’t face the same expectation to “figure something out”. So many mothers left the workforce entirely during the pandemic, right?

    In this case, for sure, the compromises have included leaning on office interns to take on extra cleaning work.

    There are surely lots of much bigger compromises this manager is making in her work & life; the situation sounds fairly awful. And I want to tell her to communicate better with the interns, not just throw them brusque orders & no explanation, but… that’ll take time & energy & … I mean, she likely *changed* that diaper while on a conference call, and also failed to stop the crumb volcano re-enactment in spite of likely multiple desperate attempts.

    Of course her own work suffers because she’s juggling a toddler while working — is she at risk of getting fired for that?

    The interns aren’t going to know (and none of us know what other constraints she has), but I’m interested to see more opinions on what the business should be doing to help both the manager + interns, not just “this manager needs to do better” when she’s so obviously not bringing her toddler to work for fun.

      1. rob*

        I think my comment wasn’t clear.

        Of course it’s not the interns’ problem in any way.

        I’m asking “why” twice here, instead of just once. :(

        1. anonymous73*

          No your comment is pretty clear and not the point of the letter. Having childcare issues is a completely different issue here and if you have them, you shouldn’t be forcing your interns at work to clean up after your messy toddler.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          So what is your advice to the LW? Talk to the boss? Refuse to do the work? Suck it up and deal because of child care issues? Your point is fine, but I don’t see how it helps the LW solve the problem of cleaning up after toddlers when her job is not in a childcare setting.

          1. Rob*

            I was hoping even a single commenter here might also notice that the manager is likely the person with the biggest problem here.

            The LW can’t fix it, and should not try. BUT I’m pretty sure that going into conversations with a little empathy (“I really think the company should have better support for parents; maybe there’s a way for that to happen, so interns don’t end up filling in the gaps”) will have much better chances of success than coming in outraged at the unfairness of … basically where this manager is failing to be the expected superhero full-time career woman + full-time parent.

            Dunno; I’ve tried working while watching a toddler, and it’s hell — I can do it for maybe 3 days before I’m practically praying for death. I’m baffled no one seems to think this is even relevant to understand.

            1. Yorick*

              Nope. The manager chose to have a kid and chose to bring it to work (I know it’s hard right now, but there are still other options) and instead of dealing with it herself she’s foisting off her childcare responsibilities on her subordinates, who don’t have any choice in the matter.

              1. calonkat*

                Yorick is correct. If the manager discussed the issue with others and they agreed to help on occasion, AND the manager was minimizing the impact, that would be in line what Rob is asking. Instead, the manager is letting her child run around and create mess and expecting the interns to deal with the chaos (see also the posts people have made about dogs in offices). While it may be legal, it will never be acceptable.

              2. Rob*

                So… you hear me saying the interns need help so they don’t have to do this, right?

                But you also want to make the point that the manager doesn’t need/deserve help, because she chose to have a kid, and that’s entirely on her, now?

                1. calonkat*

                  Rob, I’m not sure what the point here is. No one is arguing that the manager doesn’t clearly need help. But she’s making her problems those of her employees and that’s what we are saying is wrong, as they were not hired to be her daycare/cleaning staff.

                  If her washer was broken and she dumped 3 loads of laundry on the interns desk and demanded they do her laundry, we would all say that was wrong. We could also say that it sucks to have a broken washing machine, but it’s not right for her to dump her laundry at work and make other people handle it. Children are not the same as a laundry machine, but it’s also wrong to make other people deal with your children (or their messes.)

                  Yes, the American concepts that parents don’t need to spend time with their children, that safe and affordable daycare will magically appear, and that leave is a mostly imaginary concept is a terrible system, but it’s what we live with. We are capable of having sympathy for someone and still not accepting bad behavior. If it is normal where you are for bosses to bring their children to work and demand that others clean up after them, then that may be where you are not understanding why we object.

                  If the manager had written in saying that employees were complaining because she was “forced” to bring her child to work and they had to clean up some minor messes (which is how those letters always go), we’d have exactly the same attitude. “While it sucks that you don’t have options, you shouldn’t visit your troubles on others at the workplace.”

                2. calonkat*

                  I should have added a final bit:
                  If the manager had written in saying that employees were complaining because she was “forced” to bring her child to work and they had to clean up some minor messes (which is how those letters always go), we’d have exactly the same attitude. “While it sucks that you don’t have options, you shouldn’t visit your troubles on others at the workplace.” We could have also offered suggestions and sympathy to the manager.

                  But the manager didn’t write in, the intern did and so our answers are to the intern.

                3. starfox*

                  “because she chose to have a kid, and that’s entirely on her, now?”

                  I mean… yes? She chose to have a kid, so the kid is entirely her (and the child’s father’s) responsibility. It’s not really a matter of “deserving” help, but no… she does not “deserve” to foist childcare duties off on her subordinates because she made the choice to have a kid.

            2. anonymous73*

              That’s because the manager isn’t the one with the biggest problem here. She’s forcing interns to clean up after her toddler, which is an abuse of power. THAT’S the biggest problem here.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Yep. The solution to day care problems is never, “I can’t afford/find/access care for my kid, so I’ll just have the interns at work do it”. I have sympathy for parents, especially those in the US, where our entire care system is awful and expensive, but I have no sympathy for someone who decides to get it for free by making an employee who is not working in a day care take care of their kid.

                1. starfox*

                  Yep! My coworker had to bring her 3-year-old to the office today because her babysitter was unavailable. I honestly didn’t even realize the kid was there because my coworker is responsible and took care of/cleaned up after her own kid.

            3. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I think you’re projecting. Even in that situation, “my intern can help” is not an option. Not even a last resort, straight up not an option.

              I willingly helped a boss with childcare post-maternity leave, watching the kid at the office, but I was a full time employee who felt empowered to say no and did it as a kindness in a small close-knit office. It still was probably ethically grey for her to let me. Empathy or not, it doesn’t change the advice to the LW so it’s not relevant.

              1. Rob*

                “My interns can help is not an option”, 100% agreed.

                … I’m wincing my way through the dozens of comments from outraged people who read the opposite in my comments.
                … can’t edit it to make it clearer now, but so it goes.

                So — given that, now we have several people with needs to be understood & addressed, somehow. No? No one here cares about the obviously awful situation the manager is in?

                She’s handling it imperfectly, so we don’t care anymore. Or she’s a manager (of uncertain level), so we assume she *could* solve this easily but is choosing not to.

                1. HoundMom*

                  Actually, we have no idea why the manager is bringing the child in. It could be a lack of options — no care available, no family support, child care is outside of the budget, etc. That is tough and deserves our sympathy.

                  It also could be that she is making a choice not to spend her money that way — I have seen way too many people learn how to exploit friendships and other relationships to think this is not a possibility.

                2. Eyes Kiwami*

                  There was a thread a while ago about the struggle of parents in the pandemic. It’s not lost on the commentariat–many people here are parents. It’s just that the person asking for help is the intern caring for the kids, not the parent.

    1. MEH Squared*

      No. That is not the job of the manager’s reports at work. I am sympathetic to working parents, especially working moms, getting the very short end of the stick, but the solution in not to make your reports take care of your children in any measure.

      The manager could talk to her manager about what she needs to take care of her child during the work day. That’s one possible solution. But if her child is making a mess at work, then she needs to clean it up.

      1. MEH Squared*

        ETA: This is my ‘the way it should be’ answer. I recognize that in reality, the manager/supervisor has been doing this to a coworker for months and isn’t likely going to change.

      2. Rob*

        100% agree that the interns shouldn’t be on the hook for this at all.

        Do not agree that this is 100% the manager’s personal problem and the company (and US society) are all just fine and have no place in the discussion.

        I’m in France; good childcare is funded by the government, because otherwise you get ridiculous situations like this that are “the mother’s fault”, and women don’t want to have kids if it’ll make their lives this awful.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s definitely not just fine, but having a baby and planning to routinely bring it to work to be looked after by underlings because any other childcare is too expensive isn’t fine either.

        2. Antilles*

          I don’t think anybody is saying that the US handles child care perfectly or that the system works fine.

          But that’s not relevant for this discussion. The system is what it is right now and for at least the next few years. The manager has to work within society as it currently exists here in America…and in our current flawed system, it unfortunately is “100% the manager’s personal problem” to figure out a way to care for the toddler that doesn’t involve dumping all the work on the interns.

        3. watcher*

          The standard, “The USA has awful parental leave and childcare policies.” has been gone over time and again and isn’t really constructive.

          1. Rob*

            Eh. I work in Europe for a company with a lot of people in the US.

            I’m not going to stop directly discussing places where US society is doing harm, where moral companies can pick up the slack, and I strongly feel it does harm to pretend hard problems *don’t exist*, especially when laying blame.

            1. anonymous 5*

              One of the specific requests for commenting on this site is that non-US readers refrain from pointing out/”directly discussing” how policies in the US make things difficult/untenable for workers. We aren’t pretending those problems don’t exist.

            2. Nameless in Customer Service*

              I say this as one of the more sympathetic Americans to people who point out the massive problems with the US (I personally think that’s a good antidote to the “America’s #1!” attitude we are encouraged by US society to hold to)… what can the LW, an intern being made to clean up after her supervisor’s child, do about this in the moment? How does a consideration of how unnecessarily difficult US business culture makes it for working mothers to balance our lives help this intern push back against duties she should not actually be given?

            3. Windowless Office*

              The interns might have kids too, or any number of duties outside work. You are making an awful lot of assumptions and projections skewed to favor the boss. Do the interns get to foist their personal responsibilities onto the boss for months at a time, no questions asked? I predict the answer is no, no matter what “compromises“ they have to make for the boss.

        4. MEH Squared*

          If the supervisor had written in, then we could have had the discussion about the bigger picture and how American societal safety nets suck (and, believe me, we know they do) and how terrible the last two years have been on parents (on everyone, but in this case, we’re talking about parents). But even in that discussion, we probably would have focused mostly on what she could have done in terms of her specific situation because that’s really the concern at hand.

          In this case, it’s absolutely not helpful to bring it up in a letter from the intern because the intern is at the bottom of the hierarchy and has no standing to change the office culture, let alone American society as a whole. And, it’s not really fair to ‘what about the children’ the intern at a very legitimate concern.

    2. JSPA*

      She’s the boss; she has some resources to deal with the issue. More, presumably, than the employees would, and nobody seems to be OK with the bottom-of-the-rung employees pulling this sort of cr*p.

      Solutions exist: Portable playpen. Spare diaper genie or a diaper bag with a sealing compartment. Ziploc type bag. These are not dark secrets known only to the initiated.

      The boss is an entitled ass not because she has childcare problems, but because she has not done the bare minimum of what’s required to keep a child safe in an office, and keep the office safe and clean, as well.

      (She’s also probably violating the insurance contract by having the kid there, not just once in an emergency, but repeatedly.)

      1. hamsterpants*

        Great points. I think cleaning and even acting as a personal assistant can acceptable be asked of interns, but the manager needs to do more to minimize the impact. In addition to what you’ve said, there need to be proper cleaning supplies and PPE.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Cleaning and acting as a personal assistant are NOT acceptable to be asked of interns. They are there to LEARN the business and business norms. They aren’t free labor to run your errands and clean up your messes.

          Interns have the least power to push back. So don’t pull power plays on them like expecting them to be your personal assistant.

        2. Oakwood*

          “I think cleaning and even acting as a personal assistant can acceptable be asked of interns”

          I disagree.

          Interns are unpaid (or paid a bare minimum). In return they are taught the basics of the business. That’s the deal.

          Having an intern clean is not part of the deal. They didn’t take a minimum or no pay job to be taken advantage of.

          1. hamsterpants*

            I was speaking about paid internships since Alison already addressed the legalities surrounding unpaid internships.

            You’ve never heard of an intern making a coffee run?

          2. miro*

            I see it a bit differently. I had internships (one unpaid, one paid quite a bit more than minimum wage) where everyone in the office takes turns with washing dishes, making coffee, etc. I never felt like it was unfair to have me take part in that stuff. Sure, it wasn’t teaching me specific skills of the organizations, but I would argue that it’s part of a more general leaning experience of “this is how you behave in an office.” Interns may be there to learn, but I don’t think they need to do so within  I definitely don’t think that an internship should be primarily cleaning, nor should the intern have to do significantly more cleaning than other employees, but I also don’t think an internship needs to be learninglearninglearning nonstop the whole time (nor is that necessarily going to be the most effective–at least for me, a break to do some mindless physical work can be a good time to process stuff, though I realize that not everyone works that way).

            1. hamsterpants*

              Yes! Maybe because my industry strictly has paid internships, but to me the idea that the intern is ONLY there to learn seems out of touch. The rest of the employees are there to help the company function and earn money, often by doing tasks that don’t directly benefit us personally. Why is the intern special?

              1. rural academic*

                The internship may be required for an academic program, and in general if the intern is earning college credit for the internship, they are paying tuition FOR the internship. Hence their learning is supposed to be the focus.

                1. hamsterpants*

                  This seems like a tough quandary. I have an intern and it takes a lot of my time to teach him — more time than I save with the work he does. My company also pays him. If my company required that every hour of his time be tailored around his educational needs, I’d respond by simply refusing to take additional interns.

                2. Vintage Lydia*

                  That’s literally the entire point of internships though. Generally they are detrimental to productivity during the time of the internship (at least at first) so that when they get a entry-level job they can hit the ground running. If you think an intern is supposed to be a huge help around the office, especially students who are paying for the privilege, you’re doing internships wrong.

              2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                They are there to learn workplace norms. Babysitting and cleaning up after the boss’ kid isn’t a norm and definitely one that shouldn’t be taught to new members of the workforce. Being on the rota to do dishes, do the coffee run, make the coffee, clean the refrigerator, etc the same as other employees is fine. Only having the interns care for and clean up after the boss’ kid is not fine and not teaching them how a functional workplace functions.

              3. quill*

                When I interned (paid) I was certainly expected to do some routine tasks independently. Yes, I learned. But I also scanned and digitized a heck of a lot of paperwork, prepared dozens of samples, refilled the water tanks on various machines, and scrubbed down a lot of work surfaces. All of this was things the business legitimately needed, though – not babysitting my boss’ kid or being a personal assistant for their non-work life.

          3. Pescadero*

            “Interns are unpaid (or paid a bare minimum). In return they are taught the basics of the business. That’s the deal.”

            Very, very, very field dependent.

            My internship paid $19/hour in 1997 when the minimum wage was $5.15

            My internship expected you to already know the basics, and do the exact same work as full time engineers – just at lower volume (not lower difficulty).

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        The boss could clean the conference room herself. Seems like a fair solution

      3. Antilles*

        “(She’s also probably violating the insurance contract by having the kid there, not just once in an emergency, but repeatedly.)”
        I was wondering about this too. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, the general expectation is that the office is NOT your regular child care – instead being limited to true one-off emergencies, family holiday parties at the office, or a new parent showing off their baby in a quick office tour.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      That may be true of her situation. But there is no reason for anyone, ever, to leave the biohazard of a dirty diaper in an office trash can. And then ask subordinates to clean it up (or custodians, etc.). She should absolutely be carrying out dirty diapers herself.

      1. KateM*

        I don’t know – doesn’t it depend on how the diaper was there? I used to roll diapers up tight so that nothing possibly smearing was outside the roll (don’t diapers usually have special little pieces of tape to do just that?). If it had been a real cacastrophe, I used a doggy bag. An used tissue paper would have been far more biohazard.

        1. calonkat*

          KateM, I think there’s also an “ick” factor. Diapers contain urine and/or excrement. If it’s not acceptable to put a bag of poop (human or doggy) or “feminine hygiene” product in a receptacle, then it’s not acceptable to put a tightly wrapped diaper there.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      While I’m very sympathetic to the plight of working parents, I’m also of the opinion that it isn’t the job of anyone else at the firm to look after/clean up after the children.

      I mean, I endure a lot of costs in petrol (I have to drive places – no matter if they are just 200 metres up the road), suffering, time off, extra responsibility, extra equipment etc for being disabled – but I don’t expect others to take on any of that for me.

      There’s a big difference between ‘there’s been a crisis, I need to bring my kid into work, would it be possible for someone to help keep an eye on them?’ and ‘You’re cleaning up after my kid. End of discussion’.

      1. calonkat*

        “There’s a big difference between ‘there’s been a crisis, I need to bring my kid into work, would it be possible for someone to help keep an eye on them?’ and ‘You’re cleaning up after my kid. End of discussion’.”

        This is perfectly stated.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Indeed. I see a lot of projecting onto situations that aren’t in the description.

        A manager wrangling a difficult childcare situation and apologetically, temporarily, offloading some of it onto an employee while taking care to minimize the most yucky parts (ie, throwing away their own diaper in an appropriate spot) is one thing. But inconsiderate bosses with unreasonable demands and no concern for the boundaries of their employees *do* exist. From the description it’s more the second than the first.

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      That kind of line of questioning is very, very far above the intern pay grade. A person who is routinely bringing their toddler to work needs to clean up after them, at a minimum. If that’s not possible, then a nanny or childcare needs to be enlisted. Gender expectations and ”lets be flexible because mom’s have it hard” is not at all, not for a second, a thing here.

      This person is expecting interns to clean up her child’s used nappies repeatedly and over a period of months. This was not a once-off, couldn’t-be-helped emergency. This is a pattern of behaviour. Not interested in her parenting dynamic at all.

    6. J.B.*

      I strongly suspect this boss is the boss, as if there were someone more senior to her she would have a very good idea of the social consequences inherent in demanding that others do childcare. And I mean, if you’re desperate and have to bring your kid in – it’s happening more now than used to be the norm because we are more desperate. Dumping work on your subordinates is not ok.

    7. si*

      Honestly, as a parent, I’ve bagged and taken home hundreds of dirty nappies in my changing bag. If I had the resources to change a nappy, I had the resources to contain and dispose of the soiled one. No matter what conditions I was changing it in, I never needed to leave that particular mess for anyone else to deal with.

    8. CheesePlease*

      As Allison stated if the manager has a boss or a grandboss, LW can hopefully bring up the issue “I want to focus on X and Y but manager has me cleaning crumbs instead” and then they can speak to LW’s manager about the expectations surrounding having their toddler at work. Ideally there would be boundaries and expectations, and they will make it clear that interns are not childcare providers.

      1. CheesePlease*

        also, will add. We can be supportive to working parents but also some working parents are still jerks. Saying “This office needs to be cleaned” is very different from “Intern, I’m so sorry but little Jessica made a mess with her crackers in the conference room. Do you think you could help me clean it up? We have clients coming in tomorrow”

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. Boss MAY be having childcare problems, or she may just like bringing the kid to work. Boss MAY have been trying to contain the cracker explosion or just thought it was so darn cute since she didn’t plan on cleaning up the mess.

          Boss needs to not treat the staff — including LWs coworker as her personal cleaning service. If its an ocassional thing where she asks for help, SURE. Life happens. But regularly expecting your staff to clean up your kid’s mess is not a good look.

    9. Purple Cat*

      In this case, for sure, the compromises have included leaning on office interns to take on extra cleaning work.
      Where is the “compromise” for the intern? They were forced into this work by their boss. The intern has no standing, no power, and limited ability to push back. It was dictated to them – no compromise in sight.

    10. Esmeralda*

      No excuse. Boss needs to clean up after her own child.

      I get it. I had to bring my kid to work with me numerous times. It was *my responsibility* to take care of him.

      And yes, this is a bigger issue. The solution is not to foist the work onto the intern.

    11. MCMonkeyBean*

      The problems with childcare in our society and how these issues often default more to women in an unfair way is certainly a worth topic… but it isn’t really relevant to this particular letter. Discussing macro issues isn’t going to address the micro-problem. Just bringing your baby to work every day is not usually a solution that would work in most offices, and making your employees clean up after your kid (and changing their diapers in the conference rooms!??) is definitely not a reasonable solution.

    12. Snuck*

      You ask what the business could do better… every work place and scenario is different. The facts of this specific one is that this manager regularly/frequently brings her small toddler in, and does not closely supervise said toddler.

      So the workplace could:
      Review why the toddler was there in the first place (is it sick, is it a day care issue, is it a mum decision?)
      Put in place expectations around when it’s reasonable to have a toddler in the office (rarely – without putting a number on it rarely is less than monthly generally, and only in emergencies or for a short less than 10min visit to pick up something/drop off something)
      And who is supervising the toddler and cleaning up after it when it is there (the parent of the toddler)
      And what that looks like (using a staff available vaccum to clean crumbs, removing nappies in waste bins to an outside bin, cleaning up spilt drinks and making sure a mess isn’t created in the first place)
      Managing the sound and distraction created by the toddler (parent!)
      That if the toddler is too sick for day care it’s too sick for work

      But if it’s the owner of the business bringing their toddler in then it’s hard to deal with that, just be glad internships are permanent and take from this all the learnings about the workplace you can. While it might not be top notch professional, the learning you CAN get is what is normal, and not, by asking around and the experiences you have are still valuable. A lot of interning is to learn workplace norms yes? So you work out your place isn’t normal. Learning done!

      And aside from that, if this is a place that instead regularly decides to have toddlers in (or dogs, or pet monkeys) then create an appropriate space for them – an empty office converted to a hot desk with a baby gate at the door and small table and chairs in there and all the switches and power points and lan cables safely secured away from small fingers… so that parents can work in that office when their child is with them. Or provide a moving baby gate that travels with the toddler to the various offices. Or provide a pack and play cage/fence that contains the toddler, with a floor mat that can go under it even better.

      And provide an agreed place to change nappies. If the workplace doesn’t have access to a parents room in the building (some large ones do), then what about a shower room? An accessibility toilet that could have a change table put in it or a wall mounted one installed? There’s often options people haven’t thought through.

      But there’s a thousand things aside from this an employer can do. A current letter is asking why a staff member always leaves at 5pm… a $1/min after 6pm you can bet a parent is getting to day care pick up on time… Flexible leave policies that allow for sick children to be cared for, healthy maternity/paternity leave to allow healthy family bonding, flexible arrangements regarding hours of work, when leave is taken, working from home etc. The list is enormous.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    LW 1: I remember once when I worked retail, my manager’s 8 year old cousin came in and was playing at one of the checkouts, pretending to check out various items. Part of my job involved tidying up after work, but my manager insisted her cousin put back all the items she had been playing with and did not expect me to do it. I wouldn’t even have minded as putting a few items back on the shelves is a lot different from dealing with a dirty diaper and besides it was a one-off, but she was respectful enough to recognise that a child she was caring for was her responsibility and not mine. So yeah, your boss is out of order.

    But as others have said, there might not be much you can do.

    1. Despachito*

      Exactly this.

      I remember some very rare occasions when I brought our kids to my husband’s office when his female coworkers gathered up to fawn upon them, but this was very rare and far between, and as far as I remember, we never left them for other people to attend. I can imagine to do that in a real emergency when something comes up unexpectedly (e.g. the person who was supposed to care after the kid gets suddenly sick and the parent has an important meeting at work to attend). However, it is unlikely to happen very often, if ever, and if it is one episode in, say, ten years, and the parent is respectful about it, it is unlikely to become a nuisance for the coworkers.

      1. Elenna*

        I hung out in my mother’s* office a few times as a kid when we had a holiday from school for whatever reason, and I distinctly remember my mom repeatedly reminding us to be quiet and clean up after ourselves. Fortunately for her we were pretty quiet as kids go anyways (and, obviously, somewhat older than toddler age, since I remember this), but the point is she took responsibility for everything we did.

        *For the record, my dad did his part in taking care of us, but he was a high school teacher so obviously it was less disruptive for us kids to be in mom’s closed office than dad’s classroom. Although we did tag along once on a field trip to the Science Center when it happened to fall on a day we had off.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          There were more than a few of us, all within a five year span, belonging to all the women at Mom’s (very female dominated) workplace. Before we were old enough to go home alone on half days at school, a decent handful of us, maybe 5-8 kids, just walked from school to Mom’s work and we collectively hung out in the very large break/lunchroom. We were not allowed to make a mess, we were to clean up after ourselves, and we were to behave, I think most of us read or did homework, and a couple times I remember Uno being brought out of someone’s bag. On half-days the owners were in, they brought ice cream or something similar for the kids. Very different time and very specific office atmosphere, not sure I’d recommend it as a solution but dang it worked well under the circumstances.

          Still friends with some of my half-day lunchroom bunch. Most of our mothers worked there from the time we were little until they retired.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I was in 3rd-6th grade I used to walk or take the bus to one of my parents’ offices where, after I finished my homework, I was assigned work like sorting all the pens in the supply cabinet by color and putting them in an appropriately labeled box, sweeping, shoveling snow, raking leaves, breaking down packing materials and throwing them out (my favorite job) etc.. I’m not sure how useful my work was, but at least I wasn’t creating a bigger mess

      1. Irish Teacher*

        When things got quiet shortly before closing, I asked the kid to keep an eye out and call me if there were any customers, so that I could start tidying up a bit early. The kid got to feel important and like a member of staff and we got finished up a couple of minutes earlier than we would otherwise have done; everybody won.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      My kid has been expected to put away every toy he’s played with at the end of the day since around 18 months. It started as a game ‘We gotta get all these blocks in the bin’ and then you go ‘BOOM’ when you throw the toy in the bin (to a baby, entertainment gold). But he’s three now and he knows where all of his toys go and knows it is his job to put them away. If he makes a big mess while eating he knows he needs to help clean that up too. Kids are capable of a lot, but they don’t turn some magic age where they are responsible for themselves, you have to teach them as they go.

    4. Me!*

      As kids, we often used to walk to our parents’ retail business after school instead of taking the bus. I especially loved this because it gave me a chance to go to the library. It was a Hallmark franchise, so there was plenty of dusting, straightening cards, and restocking to do. Or we could run the hand-cranked bowmaking machine and make bows for gift-wrapping (yes, I’m old).

      This was when we were old enough to do so, mind you—Mom was a SAHM until we were. We were expected to either stay in the office and be quiet or help out on the floor. We could ask their employees if there was anything we could help them with, but they were NOT required to keep an eye on us or entertain us.

  14. Viette*

    Letter 3: As a healthcare worker, I feel like I’m missing something with this letter. I think the people you’re interviewing may want to interview after your work hours because they work YOUR work hours.

    “My working day typically begins at 6 am and I am therefore unable to meet after 5:30 pm,” possibly isn’t landing because that’s also true of your applicants. You do seem to want to hire healthcare workers who currently have jobs, which is understandable but limits you.

    Allison’s answer about how applicants now are “a lot less incentivized” to find a way to interview during business hours feels tone-deaf to the incredible pressures and guilt being laid upon the American healthcare system right now. Putting in for an afternoon off is very difficult in an industry with historically horrific personal boundaries and which is now under more pressure than it ever has been. Theoretically you want to select for candidates who have some boundaries and yet aren’t burnt out, but honestly, it’s tough to find these days.

    It would be wise and practical to work with your facility and colleagues to interview outside of your working hours — because those may also be your applicants’ working hours.

    1. Bluephone*

      I couldn’t put my finger on why that letter and answer bugged me but you got it all in one try!

    2. eastcoastkate*

      Fully agree with all of this. I work in healthcare and we’ve had to majorly pivot for hiring clinical positions- including evening interviews (with the caveat those leaders should be flexing at some other point). We’re interviewing people who work the same shifts as this hiring manager and understandably don’t want to call out for one interview. We haven’t gone super late into the night, but have done quarterly events where leader(s) stay til 630/7 to get in a few interviews all at once. Most of our hiring managers have more leeway with their schedules than the candidates we’re hiring so it makes sense for them to flex their schedules (not all the time, just sporadically) to accomodate some interviews in the evening.

    3. Nancy*

      Agree, if people are asking for outside work hours there is a good chance it is because they cannot take the time off.

      Offer time at the start or end of the day make help because it can be easier to come in to work a bit late or leave early one day. But that may also not work for some people. So yes, having one day a week where you stay an hour late to interview someone may be the best option.

      I have often found interviewers to be willing to work with my schedule by scheduling at the start/end of day or after work. I don’t think it is that unusual.

    4. Delphine*

      Is it tone-deaf or is it accurate? Why would workers do the impossible and try to shuffle their schedules to accommodate the interviewer when there are other opportunities out there and other interviewers who will be willing to schedule a 7 pm? There is little incentive for today’s workers to bend over backward for prospective employers.

      1. un-pleased*

        You’re speaking as though the LW is not also a “worker,” which seems like an important nuance.

  15. JSPA*

    OP #2,
    you rarely see them in the US, but elsewhere, you sometimes see nifty little alcohol sprayers attached to the stall wall, near the TP, but high enough to be out of reach of small children. (Toilet seat cleaner dispenser, I believe is the term.)

    They’re much like a soap dispenser.

    A little sign encourages you to take a couple of squares of TP, spritz them with the alcohol (mercifully usually unscented) and wipe down the seat. This can be done before or after. The norm is, “before,” as these are in place of seat covers; it normalizes the process. That helps in two ways.

    In my experience, the worst tinklers are in two classes.

    a) people who’d normally sit to pee (at home / on a trusted toilet), but have a strong negative response to the idea of touching a shared seat. (I’m phrasing this to avoid saying “phobia” per se.) They therefore hover. And sprinkle. And can’t bear to clean up after, either. Alcohol on hand can sometimes entirely reverse that problem. And if not, well, it’s not gross for you or anyone else to clean the seat, because there’s alcohol, and habitual seat cleaning is normalized.

    b) standers, primarily of the cis-male variety, who are careless with the after peeing “jerk to clear” maneuver, or who don’t do the maneuver, and thus dribble, or have a prostate issue that makes the clearing process less effective. Whether from lack of body awareness or focus on the underlying medical issue, they…don’t easily retrain. Again, it’s not gross for you or anyone else to clean the seat, because alcohol/normalization of habitual seat cleaning.

    I’ve seen these in europe, asia, south america–airport bathrooms often have them.

    The only negative I can think of is that people who use injection drugs may even more tempted to do so there, because there’s free alcohol? But overdosing in the toilet is already a problem, in areas where it’s a problem. Plus there’s alcohol gel everywhere, these days. (Random hand sanitizer does not work very well for toilet seats–I’ve tried. The gelling agent leaves traces and seems to slow the drying, plus there are often other bactericidal and virucidal products that people may not want to contact with their tender bottoms.)

    As for the slight extra resource usage, it’s pretty minimal in the scheme of things, and can cut down on the need for extra cleaning, with stronger products.

    Finally, if you think about it, sitting on a seat that’s had nasty stuff blotted / wiped off with a dry piece of TP should probably be enough to make hoverers out of us all. So count me as a big fan of the “spray and wipe before you sit” option.

    1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      “Jerk to clear” is exactly the phrase I needed to start the day on a good footing. Thank you!

      And I do think you nailed it with the tinkler categories.

    2. Not embarrassed today*

      Adding category 3: women with mild bladder issues who sit, but not realize they drip when they stand up.
      I was very embarrassed to realize I was doing this because I never looked back to check before. Why would I? Now I look and make sure I clean it up.

      1. JSPA*

        If it’s a recrocele thing, there’s a “press up to clear” that’s comparable to the [usually male] maneuver described above.

    3. Scott*

      The men’s room at our office has three toilets (and three urinals) but they all flush violently enough to splash on the seat. For several years now I have been bringing in my own sanitizing wipes to clean the seat before I use it. The wipe goes into the trash, not the toilet for those concerned about it. I also use the wipe to lift the seat before flushing but most men here don’t do that so I just clean before I sit.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Scott, you are a voice of reason in a chaotic world of porcelain thrones.

        Sometimes the answer to a problem is to simply solve it yourself.

    4. AnonToday*

      JSPA, we have these dispensers at work but without the sign and I was never sure what the heck they were there for! Now I know.

      I grew up with two younger brothers and agree completely that if the seat was merely wiped with a dry tissue, it’s still not clean.

    5. Not your typical admin*

      Yes to this! Signs aren9t going to change behavior, and providing tools to take care of the problem is a much better solution.

    6. LW2 OP*

      Good suggestion, but it doesn’t change the fact that I and anyone else using the shared, semi-private bathroom, are still called upon to clean up after this one messy person. When it comes down to it I am fine just wiping the seat down with TP and calling it a day; it’s the fact that I have to do this at all rather than the person dripping pee on the seat that is bugging me.

  16. Princess Xena*

    OP 3: I have to ask – are you the only one doing interviews? If so, why? Are you a manager or HR manager? Because if you don’t have unique hiring power and/or are not the only person who can do interviews, then one suggestion you should make is to spread the load around. Can you have people take turns on interview duty, or take turns covering for you so you can work different hours?

  17. Rachel*

    Some sympathy please for the mom from Letter 1. Figuring out childcare can be impossible. And making good decisions in the early months of babyhood can be equally impossible. The sleep deprivation and interruption, the hormone fluctuations, the changes to your relationship (if partnered), the pressures of being a high-performing professional and a new mother, what you do if you have no childcare occasionally (- or long term!), the illnesses, the doctors appointments, the physical recovery, the pumping, the paperwork, the relentlessness. And that’s a good case scenario! Workplace discrimination is real, unavailable childcare is real, postpartum recovery is real, etc.

    I’m not saying it’s right to make the interns clean up – it isn’t. But instead of calling this mom an entitled ass and these other horrible names, perhaps go have a look at some of the crap that working moms strive to put up with in America and ask yourself if you would really, REALLY, act perfectly all the time in that scenario.

    1. Other Alice*

      Hard disagree. The letter says this person has been making the interns clean up this mess for months. There is zero excuse for this kind of behaviour. Like Alison said, if this had been a one off and she’d apologised profusely, it would be a different thing. This is just the mom being an entitled ass, having a kid does not mean she can treat the office as her personal play room with cleaning service included.

    2. Turtle Duck*

      Hum, I would say we can have sympathy for the mom for the situation, but not for not cleaning up herself and asking the interns. No sympathy from me on that, sorry.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Regardless of the trials and tribulations someone is undergoing, it doesn’t excuse the impact of their behaviour on others.

      Liken it to if I have a really bad pain day, it took me an hour to get dressed that morning and I get angry and yell at my staff. My behaviour isn’t excusable all the same.

    4. slashgirl*

      It’s a TWO year old–so mom, at this point, has chosen to not deal with it appropriately. And yes, she is acting entitled (and being an ass) by assuming her manager status gives her the right to abuse her employees.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      Working mothers having to deal with crap does not excuse making an intern – the lowest ranked and generally lowest paid person in the office – deal with *literal* crap.

    6. Caroline Bowman*

      Oh yeah, no. No. First of all, it’s a toddler, she’s not a ”new mom”. Second, this has been going on for months. There is no way to frame ”making the lowest on the totem pole clean my toddler’s used diapers and frequently do housekeeping on account of my child without a shred of embarrassment” that doesn’t come off as deeply selfish and entitled. It’s entitled. It would be if a man did it, if a woman did it or someone non-binary did it.

      All of the things like discrimination and post-partum and all of that jazz is indeed real, but irrelevant to this situation. ”Acting perfectly all the time” is not expected, but neither is ”routinely and over a period of months bringing your child to the office and making the interns deal with it”.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      What I disliked about the situation in the letter was both the fact it seems to be an ongoing thing and the way the intern is told to do it. If it was an occasional thing and the manager said something like, “sorry, my office is in a terrible mess. I’m in a rush today and hadn’t time to sweep up the cookie crumbs myself. Can you do it?” I think I’d feel very differently. But “this office needs to be cleaned,” combined with leaving a dirty diaper for presumably young interns to deal with seems disrespectful.

      I don’t necessarily think she’s a bad person and looking from Ireland, I have no idea how parents manage with the limited maternity leave, etc. And yeah, I guess it is possible she is struggling and that is why she wasn’t more thoughtful, but I do think an apology or even an acknowledgement she was asking them to go beyond the norm would go a long way.

    8. si*

      It’s a toddler, though – meaning that no, she’s not in those impossible early months of sleep deprivation and physical recovery. Also that the used nappy is used by a child eating solid foods and is thus truly, unpleasantly smelly. The intern wasn’t criticising her for bringing the kid in at all. It’s purely the mess, which she leaves often. I have children, I *know* she does not need to be doing this on the regular.

    9. LilPinkSock*

      What? No. All the newborn brain fog in the world (does a person still have that after two full years?) doesn’t excuse her behavior. I love children, have so much sympathy for working moms because I know they’re out in impossible situations way too often, and I’d still be irritated at being assigned diaper duty.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I have full sympathy for anyone who every now and then has a childcare disaster and ends up having to bring their kid to work for an hour or two. I have less sympathy if it’s happening on a regular basis, because that’s not sustainable for anyone, and I have absolutely no sympathy if this person is expecting junior members of staff to clean up after their child (including getting rid of dirty nappies?!). That really isn’t acceptable and it’s an abuse of power.

    10. anonymous73*

      Nope. Forcing your personal struggles with your children on those who work under you is never okay. It’s a clear abuse of power.

    11. Office Lobster DJ*

      It’s a no from me as well. Frankly, if the question had been something like the intern had to watch the toddler when mom got pulled into a unexpected meeting, I could muster up some sympathy for the tough spot the mom is in re: childcare.

      Leaving dirty diapers and cracker crumbs and phrasing it as “This office needs to be cleaned” is very much someone who feels entitled.

    12. The Original K.*

      Disagree. The child is two so the “early months of babyhood” are a thing of the past and the mom has been making the intern clean up after her kid for months. She’s doing it because she can. This isn’t “I had a child care emergency and had to bring my kid in.” She brings her kid to work every day. She’s using the office as child care and using the interns as cleaners, and frankly I think both are inappropriate.

    13. fhqwhgads*

      Childcare is impossible. Separately from that “I am the boss and therefore I have the power to make my employees deal with the aftermath of my childcare issue” is an abuse of position. It IS entitled. It’s not ungracious to use the word that means the way she behaved.

    14. Karia*

      This IS a feminist issue, but not in the way you think.

      There is a dilemma in modern feminism about the ethics of upper-middle-class women hiring women from lower social classes to do traditionally gendered roles like cleaning and childcare. As a woman in the latter category, I disagree with this on the basis that ‘heroically’ depriving women of a paycheque that fits our skills, caring responsibilities and available time isn’t actually a feminist triumph.

      But a middle class boss making her (likely female) interns – junior staff, who have no power to push back – do menial, often female coded, housekeeping and childcare tasks? When they lack the power to say no? And signed up to work for no or low pay, thinking they’d be learning professional skills?

      That is a feminist issue.

    15. Starbuck*

      This is a toddler though, not a child in the “early months of babyhood.” Presumably there have been lots of diaper changings in public before this. Mom does sound entitled especially because this help was demanded of a subordinate, not requested. Do you think she’d ask her boss to do this? Why would that not be ok, but it’s ok for the intern? She knows what she’s doing.

    16. starfox*

      Disagree. I have no sympathy for not cleaning up after your own kid and using your power to make your subordinates do it.

  18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP 4 this is yet another illustration of why you shouldn’t accept counter-offers.
    They are made only because you said you wanted to leave. Now, usually the person wanting to leave has good reasons to and those reasons won’t go away just because there’s more money suddenly available. This is not your case, however there are plenty of other reasons why you shouldn’t accept a counter-offer.
    Here, you’re still doing some bits of your old job, presumably you haven’t been replaced yet, so that’s a source of stress. Also, since your boss had to act quickly or you’d be gone, they didn’t have time to think things through, find a replacement for you, and make sure the new position was right for you. YOU didn’t have time to think things through and make sure the new position was right for you. It seems like every week there’s letter from a job applicant wondering why the hiring process is going so slowly, yet here it all happened within a couple of days. The result: a hot mess and you’re bearing the brunt of it.

    1. High Score!*

      My question for OP4 is: given that the position you are now in is so tough to fill that they offered you more to stay, why are you working such long hours? What I do in situations like yours is go to my manager and say, “I have A, B, and C on my plate. I can no longer work these long hours. What do you want me to prioritize?”
      If everyone stops working over 40 hours then it won’t be expected of anyone. Right now companies are struggling to find people to work. Don’t give them 10-20 extra hours of your life every week.
      I had a friend whose manager expected 60 hour weeks. She just started going home after 40, always putting in a fair 40 hours but refusing to go over. She was not fired or denied raises bc they were afraid to lose her.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, given that you want to leave anyway, OP, maybe it’s worth having a very frank conversation with your boss about your workload and what the ideal solution would be to make it (potentially) workable. Last summer I was so stressed out and overworked that I was ready to quit with nothing lined up (my spouse supported me but we both knew that wasn’t ideal financially). I have a good relationship with my boss but thought there was no way she’d say yes to what I really wanted, which was to have half my projects taken off my plate (we’d just hired someone to do the actual work on those projects but I was still managing them) AND to get a promotion (which I quite frankly deserved at least three years ago). She actually said yes — even though I did not actually say “I need this to happen or I’m going to quit” it was pretty clear by my frankness that I was at a breaking point and she decided it was better to keep me even at a reduced workload than risk losing me entirely (the projects that I kept I am pretty much the only person here who knows how to do them, the projects I handed off are things plenty of people here can do).

        This doesn’t mean you have to stay forever even if they do what you ask, but it can buy you space to breathe while you try to figure out your next career step. (I’m actually planning to leave my job probably at most a year from now to start my own business, but it has been nice to have another two years of a steady paycheck while I start setting that up for myself.)

        1. OP4*

          I am glad it worked out for you! I hope that either I can find a sustainable solution whether it is where I am or finding a new role.

      2. OP4*

        I agree with you. I think I do need to have a conversation with my current manager regarding the workload. I think it is not just that but just the environment which is contributing to the stress. I did reach out to the former colleague so I will see what happens and keep you posted if I get a response!

    2. OP4*

      Agree with you also on this one. I was not expecting the response that I did and had a very short time to consider what to choose. I absolutely should have thought it through more.

      1. IKnowTheFeeling*

        Hey OP4, just wanted to say I am going thru fertility treatment and at the end of last year I took a new job with a pay cut and all around worse benefits (vacation time, parental leave, sick leave, etc) , but a much less stressful environment better work-life balance, and I’m really happy with the move. I think it was on this site actually that someone described infertility treatment as a second job and it sure is! Logistically and mental health wise it has been so good to have work not be dominating my life during this difficult period.

        Don’t know if you are going it solo or partnered, but if the latter, one suggestion to look into if you haven’t already — does your partner’s insurance cover treatment and if so, could you be on their insurance?

        Hope you’re doing ok and wishing you all the best of luck career wise and with growing your family!

        1. OP4*

          Thank you so much!! I am glad that you were able to find a solution which worked for you and you are right- it is definitely difficult coordinating! My husbands role doesn’t carry benefits which complicates things but he is looking also. I hope I can find a role which is a better fit in the near future and I have decided that it is ultimately the better decision even if it carries less time off, benefits, etc. Whether it is this one or a different role all together. Best of luck to you as well for the future!

  19. Karia*

    LW: It strikes me as very odd that LW is specifically saying “I am unable to meet after 5:30 pm,” and the candidates are just straight up ignoring her? I’ve had plenty of jobs where I was only able to attend after hours interview, but I knew it was an accommodation and I was grateful.

    1. birch*

      I’ve noticed especially when people are reading quickly they’ll sometimes make the mistake of reading “I am unable to met after 5.30pm” and it will stick in their mind as “I am *only* able to meet after 5.30pm.” I agree with a previous commenter that OP should start offering morning hours and see if anyone takes them up on those slots.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I think it would be better to say, “I can meet at any time between 7am and 5pm.” Apart from anything else, it would also clarify the availability of early appointments.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yes I’ve been trained that in this type of context it’s best practice to state when IS available. It’s too easy for people to miss a “not”. Flipping it when checking availability may not entirely solve the issue, but it should make a dent.

  20. Constance Lloyd*

    LW 2: if nothing else, see if your office will spring for some Clorox wipes to leave in the bathroom. This was a recurring problem during one of my four college dorm years, and I just started carrying a tub of Clorox wipes to the bathroom with me. I couldn’t stop the seat from getting gross, but I felt a lot less squicked out wiping it up with something that at least sanitized.

  21. Library_Lady*

    Re: urine on the toilet seat:
    Are you 100% sure it’s urine and not “overspray” from the flush? If the drops are ALWAYS there, it might not be urine – just water from flushing. I’ve known commercial-style toilets that practically sprayed the whole bathroom due to the power of their flush. Just a thought.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        If it’s an autoflush, the process of wiping it down might trigger it to flush again, leading to more drops, needing to be wiped again, and suddenly the person’s day* is overrun by trying to keep a bathroom clean when they should actually be working.

        *Hyperbole, no one is going to be doing this all day.

    1. pancakes*

      That does happen a lot with auto-flush toilets, but water doesn’t look or smell like wee.

    2. LW2 OP*

      I wish it were spray from a powerful flush! Unfortunately, the flush on this toilet doesn’t spray; the drops are pee.

  22. Gnome*


    I once thought my office had developed a serious problem like this. It was every time. Turned out they did some plumbing work and for whatever reason, flushing (one toilet in particular) caused a bit of the new water to spray out and get a few drops on the seat. I think the pressure was too high.

    Anyway, I just mention that in case there’s something like that going on. It’s easy enough to check by flushing and if that’s the case, it’s a maintenance item.

  23. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, there’s nothing to lose by reaching out to the other company… Not sure where you’re located but fertility treatment can be massively $$ so if it’s unusual in your area to be covered for that, i’m sure that’s a consideration.

    The times counteroffers can work well are when you truly love everything about the job except for the money and they pony up.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks for your response! I did reach out so I will see what happens. I figure it is worth a shot. I know they are super expensive so I feel like that is what ultimately made my decision/made me ignore the red flags

  24. Mel*

    I’m currently job hunting and can only do interviews after work hours, at least for the initial interviews anyway, because I just can’t afford to take the time off work unless I know the interview will go somewhere. However, I would be open to an early morning interview if that suited the interviewer. I’d also ask if we could do a preliminary interview by Zoom in the early morning and if the interviewer then wants to see me again, I’ll arrange to take the time off for an in-person interview at that point. I feel there needs to be flexibility on both sides, and Zoom does offer a possible compromise for a first interview.

  25. anonymous73*

    #4 have you spoken to your boss? I’m assuming part of your agreement to stay and take the more senior role didn’t include continuing with your former job as well? That’s not sustainable for anyone. If you haven’t tried start there and see if it’s fixable. And as Alison said, don’t jump ship for the other job you were unsure about just to escape. You could go from one bad situation to another, and ruin a business relationship with someone who reached out to you for a job opportunity.

    1. OP4*

      I have not had a long conversation but I have mentioned my concerns to my current boss. My concerns in the other role were exclusive to benefits. Obviously that may still be an issue but I ultimately have decided it would be worth the move

  26. Not Your Admin*

    #3: I agree with others that your best bet is to prioritize interviews first thing, at least a day or so a week. There are many, many people who are stuck, well, working during working hours and can’t interview. For example, I’m a front desk receptionist who desperately wants to not be a front desk receptionist. I also work the entire time the office is open, Monday through Friday, with no breaks of any kind. (Yes, I get overtime, though I’d rather have the breaks to give my brain a rest like everyone else here gets.) And, of course, I can’t be doing job interviews while at work. I also can’t ask for a last-second day or half-day off every time an interview comes up that may not even pan out into a job offer, or I’d quickly run out of time off, not to mention goodwill from the manager. I would only be able to interview with you outside of working hours. There are many people like me!

  27. Jean*

    Ugh, the office toilet seat pee wars. I am a veteran. In my experience, the people who feel entitled to leave their pee on the seat for the next person to deal with are the same people who are DEEPLY, DEEPLY offended by signage kindly asking them not to do that. And shitty HR depts will always side with the affronted pee-leavers. Fortunately at my current office, most people are polite and clean in the shared restroom, and any cleanliness issues are swiftly reported to and dealt with by our wonderful facilities team.

  28. Lab Boss*

    LW5: Your company may not have an official policy (which they probably should, but that’s a different story) but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to convince them of anything. I got tapped to travel last spring and my company has no written policy on this- I just sent an e-mail with the general tone of, “of COURSE the company will cover my extra expenses if I get stuck in the UK because of COVID, but I just wanted to confirm that” and my management chain replied that yes, of course they would. A coworker travelling around the same time actually contracted COVID on her trip and they covered it all just fine. Before you worry too much about fighting this battle, make sure it actually needs fighting.

    1. OP 5 Here*

      That makes a ton of sense. Part of the reason I was nervous is that it’s a school (private) and they have decided that if a KID gets covid on a trip, their parents are responsible for paying. But you’re right, reaching out as if of course they’d do the right thing seems like the way to go! Thanks.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I wonder if that might be to discourage the infamous “Fergus was running a little fever the morning of the trip, but they’ve been looking forward to this so much! I’m sure it’s nothing (stuffs kid to the legal limit with Tylenol and make them swear not to tell)” scenario.

    2. Sloanicota*

      In the nonprofit sector, I seem to frequently run into static on these kinds of things, all of which are usually blamed on “the auditers.” I understand that some things, such as a third plane ticket when two have already been purchased, or an unexpectedly expensive parking bill, or a hotel room that wasn’t planned, come up, it needs to be explained in the financial records. But it’s shameful that these inconveniences of travel are often foisted off on the employee to solve, usually with the sense that they “should have known” or whatever. In several cases I have paid for business expenses myself rather than argue that I was going to be late if I didn’t pay for the more expensive parking or that the meeting went long and I couldn’t get back overnight, or whatever. This is why positions that require a lot of travel need to pay more (I have also incurred, and of course paid for myself, parking / driving tickets that only happened because I was trying to navigate an unfamiliar city for work).

  29. Bruiser Woods*

    One solution I’m sure hasn’t been suggested yet: what about those seats that have a gap at the front where most of the pee drops are likely to fall? Could help a little depending on just how bad there aim is.

    1. LW2 OP*

      This is exactly the kind of seat that is currently on the toilet, and I think this is the problem!

      1. IKnowTheFeeling*

        Yes my guess is the culprit is squatting, in which case the drops can go anywhere! Ew

  30. pancakes*

    “No big deal, she’s very cute and it’s a small office.”

    I can’t get on board with this line of thought at all. The reasons people tend not to bring babies to work don’t have anything to do with their cuteness or the size of the office, but because they need a great deal of care and are wildly distracting.

  31. Programmer Dude*

    LW #3 – I feel like this could be a good opportunity for you. If you explain that your company tries to have a healthy work/life balance and you don’t work outside of your normal business hours, that could help show candidates how your company thinks without just lip service. I know it doesn’t really solve things, but it might help put a better light on what’s going on and help keep the good candidates in the pool.

  32. Erin*

    LW3: there is a chance that these candidates are trying to show you their desire to work for your organization by suggesting meeting times that are outside of your normal business hours. By proposing these times, they could be trying to signal “I’m eager, committed & flexible!” to you.

    All good things. Healthy boundaries are also good things. You don’t need to feel guilty for not taking these candidates up on their offers to meet outside of your regular business hours.

    I have a blurb about “my working hours may be different than your working hours. Please do not feel compelled to read or respond to this email outside of your regular working hours” in my auto signature, and with the 24-7ness of work these days, I feel like it has helped to ease these situations a bit.

  33. Imaginary Number*

    LW 1: If you decide this internship is worth it and you don’t have an option not to clean up the conference room after the toddler, I would still make the situation as socially uncomfortable as possible.

    “Hey supervisor, how do I request a full vacuum for cleaning? It’s impossible to get up all the crumbs from your daughter with the hand vac.”

    There’s lots of ways to bring up “cleaning up after your kid” without actually complaining. “Oh, hey, supervisor. When I was cleaning up after your kid I found this toy. Is this yours?”

  34. No Tribble At All*

    Alison, didn’t you say you were relieved to get a break from the bathroom letters during the pandemic? Sorry that’s over now

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They are definitely not my favorite but they’re also a super common thing that comes up in offices and where people don’t have many sources of advice for how to handle it professionally, so I don’t want to shy away from them completely. I dislike the comments on them far more than the questions! But I believe this completes my obligation to tackle them for a while.

      1. Bluephone*

        Or you could…not run them? Or run them as standalone letters with no comments?
        IDK, I’m just not sure that the hypothetical, potential reward (sharing knowledge?) is worth the “can you top this” gross outs from the peanut gallery

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because the comments aren’t the focus of the site; they’re a tiny portion of readership. I’m not going to not run a letter because the comments might not go the way I want; that’s giving outsized weight to the comment section. And I think there’s value in talking about the aspects of work that people struggle with, even if they’re not always stomach-pleasing.

          Although running them with no comments would be my ideal! Except that would mean making them a standalone post, when they don’t normally meet the criteria I use for those. Ultimately, I’m fine with including them in short answer posts but I’ll need to remember to head off the comments issue from the start next time.

        2. Annosaurus Rex*

          Writing this here so you can see and take down if you want. The post made me think of the best signs I’ve seen in workplace bathrooms (mostly single sex female) – wondering what else there is out there:
          If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.
          If you want the plumbing to work without fail, please put napkins and tampons in the galvanized pail.
          If you don’t like dirt on the toilet seat, please don’t flush with the soles of your feet.

          What else is out there?

          1. Free Meerkats*

            In almost every private aviation facility mens’ room I’ve been in, some variation of “Pilots with short pitot tubes, taxi in close.”

  35. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#5: Travel insurance. At this point, anybody making any travel plans should get insurance to cover flight cancellations and changes, hospitalizations abroad, cancelled or extended car rentals, and/or unexpected extended hotel stays. In my experience planning our summer holidays this year, I’ve found that every insurance company that has generally offered travel insurance is now offering COVID-specific plans or riders.

  36. Not So Super-visor*

    I honestly wish more places offered an after hours interview slot. I work a 10 hour shift, so there are typically no slots available when I’m not working. Yes, I can say to my boss “I have an appointment,” but when so many companies are asking for 3-4 interviews, this gets super awkward. The last run of interviews that I did, my boss actually asked if something was wrong with my health. For context, I was interviewing at 2 different companies, each wanted 3 interviews, and then I was ghosted by both. It would be great if companies could respect a perspective employee’s time.

  37. SimonTheGreyWarden*

    How? I have Ublock and Privacy badger and no ads, and both have a much smaller number blocked.

  38. Antilla the Hon*

    #2: Germaphobe and bleach freak here. Have you considered keeping a stash of cleansing wipes in your office to clean the seat before using? It stinks that you’re having to clean up the mess, but this might give you a little more comfort about the grossness and a low drama way of dealing with the situation.

  39. Nancy*

    LW2: this has been an issue practically since toilets were invented and signs do nothing but annoy people. Ask your office to invest in toilet seat covers and disinfectant wipes and use them.

  40. Coin_Operated*

    I could rant on about how disgustting public bathrooms can be (worst part about working retail), but it’s no use. Some people are just monsters and until there’s bathroom segregation based on cleanliness, thank the toilet gods for sanitizing wipes and air deoderizer.

  41. Beth*

    I just want to mention that I for one am VERY happy to have “this grosses me out” as a criterion for nixing comments. I usually read this column while eating lunch, and I REALLY dislike gross-out topics. Thank you, Alison!!

  42. House Tyrell*

    5: This happened to me 2 weeks ago. I tested negative and had no symptoms before flying out, the first day of the convention I was positive and felt terrible. I have a union which is amazing and helpful up front, but without even having to ask they said to not worry, they would be covering the changed flight, my extended hotel stay until I was out of isolation AND also all my meals were expensed on the days after the per diem were allotted. Make sure when you asked about the covid assurances you ask about food since you’ll need to order delivery for every meal (and my tip to everyone in this situation is to order from Panera or something similar where you can order meals, entree salads and breakfast options so you don’t have to submit an individual order for every single meal)

  43. RB*

    LW 3: it seems like the larger problem is that your workday is starting at 5am. Are you dealing with some extreme emergencies, such that you can’t delay sending those responses until your actual workday starts, at 6 or 6:30am? If you’ve set people up to think they can text you at any time day or night, and receive an immediate response, you may want to reset those boundaries. Couldn’t you just leave your phone off or not look at the work-related messages until your actual workday starts? Ditto at the end of the day. 55-60 hours a week is not sustainable.

  44. Rat Mom*

    LW3: Ugh, what an awful situation all around. As a healthcare worker looking for a new position right now, I’ve been having an awful time scheduling interviews, for the same reason you’re desperate for candidates– my team has been critically understaffed virtually every day for the last month, so I *can’t* get any time off. Obviously that doesn’t mean you should be working massive unbelievable overtime, but my guess is that it’s less candidates saying “screw the norms,” and more that every single one of us is burnt out and overworked and unable to get time off to rest and desperate to get into a better situation.

    I would strongly agree with commenters above saying that offering early AM slots might help. As would flexing as Alison said– I will say, as a candidate, offering me early or late times is a MASSIVE incentive to get me into the interviews and makes me immediately feel more positively about the company (since the interview isn’t a Big Awful Stress That Made My Supervisor Pissed Because I’m Taking So Much Time Off on top of general interview stress.) It might also help to 1) combine as many interviews as possible into one meeting and 2) make it explicit up front how many times you’ll need to meet, especially if it’s only once or twice (so the candidate knows that it won’t be like you’re asking them to meet 5 times weekly for an hour.) If I think I’m going to have to request time off multiple times for a interview, I’m going to be a lot gentler with my requests to my boss since I know I’ll be coming back with another request soon- but if I know I only need to request two hours off and that’s it, I’ll push a lot harder for those hours. I’m so sorry, though, this whole situation is so crappy for everyone in healthcare and I am sure hiring stress plus understaffed stress plus general covid exhaustion is so much to handle.

  45. Aphrodite*

    Alison, perhaps when you have another distasteful question (like #1and #2) you can ask commenters to use their original answer to just say who they are addressing (like: “OP #1”) and they give their real answer/advice in reply to their first one. That way, those of us who don’t want to see even a hint of what it is can just skip right over any that give the number we want to avoid.

    Cause this is really, really gross and I don’t want to see any part of either question or answer.

    1. Delphine*

      Is it likely that people will bother taking the extra step? Or even register the instruction? I mean, we’ve got a pinned note up top that says comments talking about how gross the questions are will be removed and you’ve still used that language in your comment.

      1. Aphrodite*

        It’s just a suggestion. If it doesn’t work, that’s okay. I can skip the entire thing.

      2. Auntie Anti*

        I think you misread the pinned comment. It says comments that are gross will be removed, not comments complaining about the questions.

  46. Beth*

    LW3: In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to work such long days to get hiring done. It sounds exhausting and unsustainable.

    But in the world we’re in, the reality of your hiring pool is that people are only able or willing (doesn’t matter which, it’s the reality you have to deal with either way) for interview times outside of normal business hours. You have to work with that reality. Enforcing tighter interview hours isn’t going to make people magically be available during business hours. Refusing to accommodate them is just going to lose you potential candidates–which is no good when you’re already struggling to hire.

    I think the voice of reason here needs to be to find a way to cut back that doesn’t involve refusing evening interviews. Could you pass off some of your early-morning duties to someone else temporarily? Could someone else do the initial interview rounds, so you’re only stuck on the clock for candidates that have passed at least one level of screening and are a strong potential fit? Would your boss be open to you switching to a 4-day work week temporarily, at least while you’re pulling such long days, so you have time to recharge properly?

    1. Medical Escapee*

      These are all reasonable suggestions. However, from my experience in the medical field, I’d be surprised if LW could pass off responsibilities or work fewer hours. It may be possible to have HR or similar do an initial phone screen, if that’s not already being done.

  47. Free Meerkats*

    LW #2, you’re being entirely too precious about a little urine. Grab some TP, wipe it off, and if you feel the need, put more on the seat as a make-shift seat cover if your employer doesn’t provide them.

    Yeah, the other person is an antisocial twit, but use your emotions and outrage on something that deserves them.

    1. LW2 OP*

      Thanks for the viewpoint, but it’s been a gross annoyance multiple times every day I’m in the office for the last 8 months, and I spent 2 minutes writing a sign, and another 5 minutes writing an email to AAM, so I think I’m being exactly precious enough.

  48. Anallamadingdong*

    To LW #3- In recent times at my company we have also had some difficulty filling open positions so we have had to be more flexible with interviews. If a candidate cannot meet during business hours, I will try to schedule a phone interview during their break or something. After that phone interview its usually easy to decide on both sides if someone is willing to make a sacrifice and find a way to meet. I would bet it would be easier to do an occasional after hours interview if a phone interview has already determined if a candidate is likely to be a good fit. And on the other hand, the candidate may be interested enough to make time during business hours as well.

  49. PurpleGal*

    Letter 2: When I was in university, one of my colleagues posted this sign above the toilets:

    We’re all here because we aim to learn.
    While you’re here, please learn to aim!

  50. BabyElephantWalk*

    LW #3, you’re telling us that you are “desperate for quality staff” and it’s been a “ridiculous obstacle” to staff your workplace. Your candidates are telling you what you need in order to even interview with your company and you/the company aren’t willing to provide it. If you weren’t having a problem filling roles, or getting quality hires, I’d agree that you could put a hard no to evening and weekend interviews. But your wording is telling me that this is not the case.

    Many people are unwilling to potentially jeopardize their current job to interview for another, for a variety of reasons. If you are struggling that desperately, the company is going to have to find a way to address that. Maybe offering pre-9am interviews solves that. Maybe it’s getting another staff member to help with evenings, maybe it’s blocking off one evening a week or one Saturday morning a month for interviews, or having a split day where you work the early am, take a long mid day gap and then work a little late.

    But if you’re having difficulty hiring and aren’t meeting the needs that the majority of your candidates are expressing, something needs to change in the hiring/interview process.

    1. starfox*

      I was interviewing for a job once, and I was already pretty sure I was going to stay at my current job. But I wanted to wait to hear the offer.

      After taking off work for various interviews multiple times, it was finally time for the actual offer. Only, the HR manager couldn’t mean before or after work, or during my lunch time.

      I ended turning the job down without even hearing the offer. I was unwilling at that point to take multiple hours off work to drive 40 minutes across town just to hear an offer I was likely to turn down.

  51. Medical Escapee*

    LW3: I can seriously sympathize. As someone who came from a similar enough line of work, and as someone whose partner is frontline healthcare, it is tough out there all around. Overworked, long hours, a virtually nonexistent labor pool, and underpaid is the norm in these scenarios, it seems. If there’s enough staff to cover for interviews during the workday, would that be a possibility? If not, would it be possible to push management to revisit census/patient load to address these issues? At a certain point, this does come down to patient care, especially if more people in your department/facility drop due to burnout. If none of these are an option, you may legitimately have to consider pulling later nights/weekends to get a candidate (or consider your own options, for your sake).

    Another word of caution: I’ve heard stories of managers in these extreme situations (high turnover, vacancies, burnout, and a general inability to find/keep talent due to pay scales far out of their control) being prime targets for PIPs. I’m not saying this to try to scare you; rather, it’s something to think about when upper management wants to point a finger as to why their company is struggling.

  52. Tiff*

    Could LW #2 pack a bathroom kit for on-campus days? I know it’s inconvenient to carry extra items to the bathroom each time, but the kit could include Lysol wipes, mini air freshener, and whatever else needed as “just in case” items. At the very least LW#2 can sanitize the seat prior to sitting.

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